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SALT LAKE CITY – When she met with Utah County's top law enforcer in 2020, a Utah woman says he pitched her an idea to bring an end to the harassment she endured for years after ending a brief relationship.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt planned to drop the stalking case against Mark Stewart Allen. But Allen, 59, of Lindon, would have to agree that a time limit on the filing of another criminal charge wouldn't apply. Instead, he could face the felony at any point in the future if he didn't shape up.
While Leavitt maintains the agreement was intended to help her while jury trials were on hold because of the pandemic, the woman alleges in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that he had a conflict of interest: Leavitt had acknowledged in their meeting that decades earlier, the alleged aggressor was a Latter-day Saint mission companion of his brother, Eric.
"How is that not a conflict of interest?" said the woman. "The whole situation didn't feel right."
She is named in the lawsuit and chose to talk to KSL, but did not want her name used in this story.
She's seeking a federal court order that would trigger the transfer of the case to a different prosecutor's office, along with unspecified damages.
The woman recalled feeling uneasy after her meeting with Leavitt. While the prosecutor seemed to think the plan was in her best interest, she said she was concerned the behavior would continue without a meaningful penalty.
Her attorneys provided KSL an audio recording of her meeting with Leavitt that stretched on for more than an hour. It's part of her lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Salt Lake City against the county attorney.
She expressed her misgivings shortly after the meeting, tapping out an email to Leavitt that said she wanted to see the offer in writing. But she found out after the fact that a 4th District judge in Provo approved the agreement and dismissed the case, she said.
Leavitt's office didn't tell her when the court hearing was going to happen, disregarding protections in the Utah Constitution, her lawsuit contends. And she believes her experience points to bias against women, violating the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.
She contends Leavitt had directed one of his prosecutors to drop the criminal stalking case against Allen, after he allegedly showed up at her home, shared intimate pictures of her and emailed her even though she had a protective order against him.
When his employee resisted, Leavitt took over the case, the lawsuit states.
She said the man went on to harass her again. Prosecutors refiled the charge last year, and it's still pending.
Leavitt denies he had a conflict, and said the renewed charge reflects his commitment to making sure the case is handled properly.
"The truth is, there's nothing illegal or inappropriate about this," he told KSL investigators.
Leavitt acknowledged he got involved in the case after meeting with a lawyer for Allen who sought to cast doubt on the woman's version of events, and after Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith got in touch about the case. But Leavitt is ultimately responsible for all cases that pass through his office, he said, and routinely scrutinizes them when lawyers, police or others bring issues to his attention.
Allen's defense attorney Dustin Parmley declined comment.
The woman's attorneys allege in court papers that the defendant was a campaign donor and friend, but Leavitt said they're not friends.
Campaign finance reports show Allen contributed $49.99 to Leavitt's unsuccessful 2020 campaign for Utah attorney general.
"We can't be bought," Leavitt added. "We can't be influenced in inappropriate ways."
He said the agreement had simply allowed her to have a measure of accountability while the criminal justice system was largely paused.
"This defendant is going to continue to harass you until you're at trial, and now that your trial has been postponed, you're going to have years of this," he recalled telling her. "You're better off, if you'll consent to this, that you'll dismiss the charge."
In an apparent effort to address her concerns during their meeting, she contends, Leavitt recalled that while Juab County attorney, he prosecuted neighbors, along with a church leader in his own Latter-day Saint ward – demonstrating a pattern of conflicts, according to her attorneys.
A Republican who took office in 2019, Leavitt has faced criticism in the past for dismantling his office's special victims unit focused on prosecuting crimes against children and other vulnerable Utahns.
Leavitt said he's brought in a team of researchers to review sexual assault cases the office has handled over the last 10 years and is taking steps to reduce bias in charging decisions. He views the allegations in this lawsuit as a politically motivated attack, he said, in part informed by the views of former prosecutors who left his office over their frustrations with his policies.
The woman's lawyer, Michael Young, rejected the notion.
"Refusal to prioritize the safety of stalking victims is a breach of public trust and a fundamental failure for one holding public office," he said.