PROVO, Utah — A civil lawsuit filed in federal court accuses Utah County Attorney David Leavitt of inappropriately taking over a case in which his friend and campaign donor was named as a defendant.
Mark Stewart Allen's charge of felony stalking against a woman was dismissed without prejudice in October.
An attorney for Alicia Koehler filed the complaint on Tuesday.
"Leavitt personally removed the assigned prosecutor," according to the complaint. "Leavitt took over the case for himself. Leavitt dismissed the case without any legal basis, opening the door for the stalker to cause particular further harm to a woman. Leavitt was motivated by discriminatory biases against women and his own corruption."
According to the complaint, Leavitt "engaged in illegal, discriminatory and abhorrent conduct" by taking over the case.
A spokesperson with the Utah County Attorney's Office said they were surprised to learn of the civil lawsuit, especially because charges against Allen had been refiled in September.
"It shouldn't have been dismissed in the first place," said Lorie Hobbs, a victim's rights attorney representing Koehler. "It should have gone to trial. That's what the victim desired."
Hobbs, who is not litigating the civil case, said she believes Leavitt "thought it would be better to protect himself," which is why the Utah County Attorney's Office refiled the charges.
According to the complaint, Allen repeatedly violated the terms of a civil stalking injunction by delivering flowers to Koehler, Koehler's mother, and Koehler's grandmother. The complaint also states Allen "disseminated intimate pictures."
The complaint further alleges that Leavitt realized Allen was "acquaintances and friends with Leavitt's brother, and told the assigned Deputy County Attorney to 'get rid' of the case... Leavitt removed the assigned Deputy County Attorney and took over the case himself, despite a clear and objective conflict of interest."
Koehler recorded a conversation with Leavitt in which he "admitted... that the stalking defendant was a campaign donor to Leavitt in his Utah Attorney General's race in 2020. (Leavitt) admitted that stalking defendant was Leavitt's brother's mission companion on a prior mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."
In an interview with FOX 13 News, Leavitt confirmed Allen donated $49.99 to Leavitt's 2020 campaign for Utah Attorney General.
"Despite the fact that it was under the threshold (for reporting), I still listed it because I wanted to be completely transparent," Leavitt said. "The real message from this is if you contribute to my campaign, you still are going to get charged with a felony if you commit a felony."
Leavitt also confirmed his brother served an LDS mission with Allen "almost 40 years ago."
He said he believes neither the campaign donation nor the family ties constitute a conflict of interest, laughing at both questions.
"My brother and the defendant don’t have a personal relationship," Leavitt argued. "If that’s a personal relationship, then you and I will differ on what our definition of a personal relationship is."
Lance Bastian specialized in prosecuting domestic violence cases. He told Leavitt he was not comfortable w/ dismissing the case against Leavitt's campaign donor— Adam Herbets (@AdamHerbets) January 5, 2022
Leavitt says that's why he took over, to protect victim from COVID-19 trial delays
"It's my case. It's not his case." pic.twitter.com/yGjt1re7jf
Attorneys for Koehler have accused Leavitt of downplaying the relationship, especially because Allen delivered a binder of information to Leavitt's brother during the case.
Leavitt confirmed that the "large binder of information about the victim" was one of the reasons he decided to personally handle the case.
"We worked really hard to take care of this victim and her needs," Leavitt said. "Particularly during COVID when jury trials were suspended and we had to find some way to alleviate this woman’s suffering while she was being victimized on social media... My job is to fashion some sort of protection for this woman."
Leavitt said he dismissed the charges in exchange for Allen waiving his statute of limitations. He said he believed the deal would get Allen to stop victimizing the woman, but if Allen continued then he would refile charges.
"I stuck by my word. I refiled the case, and here we are," Leavitt said. "I know she consented. I not only sat in the same room when she did, I have it on text message."
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt says he feels like a stalking victim is being "played" by her own attorneys, and that he will not be "bullied" into giving up the criminal case against his own campaign donor. pic.twitter.com/brFxxNddLR— Adam Herbets (@AdamHerbets) January 5, 2022
Leavitt said he believes the lawsuit is politically motivated by disgruntled former employees and that he believes Koehler is being "played" by her own attorneys.
He said he will not try the case personally.
Koehler has requested a jury trial. She is also asking for the criminal case to be moved outside of Utah County.
"If the defendant doesn’t want you on the case, and the victim doesn’t want you on the case, why insist on still having your office prosecute the case?" asked FOX 13 investigative reporter Adam Herbets.
"Because it’s my job," Leavitt responded. "I’m the elected Utah County Attorney... Can they bully their way into a prosecutor giving the case to somebody else? Well, maybe they can somewhere else, but not with this prosecutor they can't."