Utah county attorney David Leavitt has sought an investigation into sheriff Mike Smith after the law enforcement officer allegedly accused him of “cannibalising young children” and participating in a “ritualistic” sex ring.
Mr Leavitt also called for an investigation into the sheriff’s activities for “misuse of taxpayer and county resources”.
The Utah county attorney was addressing decades-old allegations of an illegal sex ring involving 15 people, initially made by one Nicholas Rossi in an online post, on Wednesday. He and his wife were both accused of cannibalism and murder of children.
Mr Leavitt called the accusations “ludicrous, outlandish” and a “pack of lies”.
He alleged that Mr Rossi was trying to exact revenge as he had prosecuted him for a rape charge.
He added that the accusations were also a political move as elections for the Utah county attorney race were scheduled next week.
“And I encourage Mike Smith, if he can, to vindicate himself that this is not done for his political purposes, for the political purposes of those who seek to eliminate me from this office. And if there is such a link, then I call upon him to resign,” Mr Leavitt said.
The allegations against him and his wife are part of a Utah County investigation into “ritualistic child sexual abuse” between 1990 and 2010.
The Utah county sheriff’s office had announced that it was investigating a “ritualistic child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking” case, but it did not specifically name Mr Leavitt or anyone else.
Local reports said that when Mr Smith was asked if Mr Leavitt was a subject of that investigation, the sheriff responded by saying: “We don’t talk about who is under investigation.”
But Mr Leavitt claims that the investigation report names him.
Meanwhile, Mr Smith said in a separate press conference that he won’t resign and added that he doesn’t need to apologise for using county resources on the investigation.
“I believe that Leavitt is using his authority and his pulpit to bully, distract and mischaracterise the facts of an ongoing investigation,” he said.
He also rejected Mr Leavitt’s accusations that the report was politically motivated.
“This is not political. This is something we take very, very seriously. This is some of the most egregious crimes that happen in our community when our children are victimised at this level,” Mr Smith said.
Utah’s top law enforcement official also said that the investigators have asked any potential victims to come forward. He added that the investigation began a year ago when someone reported the crimes to law enforcement.
Mr Smith added that the attorney was focusing only on accusations of “cannibalism” while the primary investigation involves sexual abuse of young people.