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The Utah District Attorney sued after he denied tracking charges against a political sponsor

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Alicia Koehler just wants her case to go to trial. She was followed for years, she informed the police. She needs a jury to decide if the man she briefly dated committed a crime and will face consequences.

But when she met Utah County Attorney David Leavitt in July 2020, he urged them to try to settle the case without conviction, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday. He thinks it’s best for her, he tells her, so she can move on.

She later recalled there was a moment during that meeting that made her feel nauseous: Leavitt revealed that the alleged stalker had donated to his attorney general campaign. The man also went on a mission with Leavitt’s brother, the district attorney said.

“I caught my guard a little bit,” she said in an interview. “I don’t feel like he’s on my side.”

Leavitt ultimately dismissed the third-degree felony case against the man Koehler alleges, although it was retrial a year later. The complaint filed Tuesday accuses Leavitt of engaging in “illegal, discriminatory and disgusting behavior” to profit a political donor and family friend.

Leavitt, who has served as an attorney for the County of Utah since 2019, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong, noting that the money back campaign from this man is less than 50 dollars.

“You have to use your common sense here,” he said. “If words go in and out, you can get into a conflict with an aggressive prosecutor getting out of the case for $50, you get everyone and their dog a $50 donation.”

Koehler’s attorney is now asking a federal judge to bar the Utah District Attorney’s Office from handling the case.

Koehler’s lawyer, Michael Young, said: “Stalking victims need to be taken seriously and their safety should be a priority. “Failing to do so violates public trust and is a fundamental failure for a person holding public office.”

Allegations of stalking

The case revolves around a criminal case involving a man Koehler was accused of stalking in 2016.

Utah County prosecutors allege three years later that the man violated that order, and he was charged with a third-degree felony. Court records show the man sent an unsolicited email to Koehler in December 2018, which contained excerpts that included “It is difficult for me to understand how difficult you have been for me… You have turned away. I turned into a demon… Why do you look down on me and destroy my hopes for happiness, unknown. ”

Prosecutors noted at the time that he went to see soccer games Koehler attended with her family – although Koehler told him she didn’t want him there. He found out where she lived, prosecutors allege, and repeatedly sent her unwanted gifts.

Lance Bastian was originally assigned to prosecute the stalking case. He recalled Tuesday that the suspect and his defense attorney met him once, carrying a giant suitcase full of adhesive. The defendant told him there was more to their relationship than Koehler gave.

Bastian said he was not affected by the meeting.

“I just kept saying, ‘If you don’t think the order is valid, you should challenge it,'” he said, “don’t violate it.”

Shortly after that meeting, Bastian said Leavitt called him into his office and gave him a brochure to review the case, asking him to see if something inside had made him change his mind. whether to prosecute the case or not.

Leavitt said that the binder came from his brother, who was on a mission with the defendant. Leavitt didn’t read it, he said, but passed it on to Bastian for review.

The materials inside appear to have been prepared by the defendant, Bastian said. These include a “self-service statement,” a description of the man’s relationship with Koehler, and several law enforcement records.

After Bastian reviewed the documents, he told Leavitt that he still felt the case was serious and should be prosecuted.

“Well, that’s the case, I’m going to go ahead and leave that to myself,” Bastian recalls Leavitt.

Bastian said in an interview: “It’s unusual for him to have to take on a case like this. “He didn’t do any of the usual top-ups.”

Leavitt said he continued the lawsuit out of concern about the defendant posting negative comments about Koehler online. He said he sometimes gets involved in cases his office prosecutes if a citizen has concerns about them. In this case, he said he heard from his brother, the Utah County sheriff, and the man’s defense attorney.

He added: “I did not order Lance Bastian to dismiss the case.”

Bastian was never involved in the case again, he said. Months passed, and he still looked it up from time to time, hoping it would be removed.

“That’s obviously what he wanted me to do with it,” Bastian said. “He wanted me to get rid of it and I didn’t feel I had any grounds to refute it.”

Bastian left the Utah District Attorney’s Office in August 2020, in part because of Koehler’s handling of the case, he said. He has prosecuted sex crimes and said he also opposes the decision Leavitt made to incorporate less experienced prosecutors into the special victims unit, who don’t want the job.

“I’m a career prosecutor,” Bastian said. “And I’ve probably been there my whole career but because David Leavitt is coming.”

A recorded meeting

Koehler discovered through a victim’s advocate that Leavitt had taken over the stalking case. She recalled in an interview that she immediately felt concerned, noting that she had seen her alleged stalker post comments on Leavitt’s Facebook page in support of the law’s reformist policies. district teacher.

So Koehler met Leavitt in July 2020. And she taped their conversation in his office.

According to that recording, Leavitt began their conversation by telling Koehler that he “takes” the case from Bastian, “because every time I come back, I get attacked by someone with this case.” “.

Koehler expressed his apprehension, posting the defendant’s posts on Leavitt’s Facebook page.

“I’m just saying he’s been a huge supporter for you and the fans,” Koehler told Leavitt, according to the recording. “This is very concerning to me.”

In response, Leavitt said that as a Juab District Attorney, he prosecuted people with properties close to him and sued others who held prominent positions in his ward in the Church of the Lords. Latter-day Saints of Jesus Christ.

When Koehler reiterated her concerns, Leavitt told her that if he prosecuted his political opponents, “they would also say it’s a conflict of interest.”

“It’s just–how it is,” he told her.

Leavitt could then be heard saying that the alleged stalker had donated $49.99 to Leavitt’s unsuccessful 2020 attorney general campaign and told her that this man also had accompanied his brother on a church mission.

“I have nothing to hide here,” he said.

Leavitt at the time went on to point out that bringing the case to trial would take longer than usual, as jury trials have been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That delay could be an advantage in persuading the defendant to come to an agreement, he said.

“What I’m trying to do is put together something that gives you the best perspective possible,” he said. “A life has nothing to do with that.”

Leavitt also offered to drop the felony charge against the man on the condition that he be barred from communicating with Koehler or talking about her online. He said: “If this man ever did, the prosecutors would clear up the case.

Koehler doesn’t believe Leavitt is real, she told The Tribune.

“I didn’t feel at any time that he was looking out for my best interests,” she said. “Stage = Stage.”

Later that day, Koehler emailed Leavitt, sharing that she felt ambushed during their meeting and wanted to see any proposed solutions in writing before she agreed.

“You really have a connection,” she wrote to Leavitt. “There are so many coincidences that you have to face this case, at a time when he only posts about you and your reforms in the justice system. So my question to you is… does this deal benefit you? Or me? ”

Dismissal case

Leavitt never responded to her emails, according to Koehler’s lawsuit. But they continued to communicate via text message.

That August, Koehler sent Leavitt screenshots of her alleged stalker and again posted supportive messages on Leavitt’s Facebook page. The lawsuit alleges Leavitt responded, again explaining the settlement he wanted to strike, this time noting that the defendant dropped “evidence” and asked that Koehler be prosecuted instead.

Koehler’s attorney alleges this is manipulation – a move made to encourage her to believe that the jury trial will not work in her favor.

Two months later, in October, Leavitt went to court and asked for the criminal case to be dismissed. Court notes state that the accused man agreed to stay away from Koehler and not talk about her publicly or online.

But Koehler said she was not told there would be a hearing in the case and did not know until next month that it had been dismissed.

Last August, the man accused of spying on Koehler asked the judge to unearth the tracking case. Koehler’s attorneys allege in their complaint that in doing so, the man accused her of “multiple wrongdoings unrelated to the basic allegations of stalking and smearing her character.” .” The man is not listed as a defendant in Koehler’s lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the man used the debt forgiveness petition as a platform to smear and abuse her – harm that the suit argues was due to Leavitt’s decision to initially dismiss the criminal case.

“This harm will not be to Leavitt’s discriminatory policies intended to provide leniency to his male campaign sponsors and friends,” the lawsuit reads.

Court records show a Utah County prosecutor dismissed the criminal case in September, nearly a year after Leavitt asked to dismiss it.

The record does not say why it was resubmitted. Koehler’s lawsuit alleges that Leavitt tweaked it “after he heard it could cause him problems in the upcoming election.”

Leavitt denied that his decision was politically motivated. He said his office screened the case after the man wrote defamatory statements against Koehler in the petition, violating their agreement that he did not talk about her on a public platform. declare.

The district attorney said he feels the lawsuit filed Tuesday may have been politically motivated by former prosecutors, including one who worked for the law firm that filed the case. Young, Koehler’s attorney, said the former prosecutor was not involved in the lawsuit and that “wasn’t the motive behind” it.

Koehler said she does not believe the reported tracking case could be properly handled under Leavitt’s leadership, and wants the case referred to another district attorney’s office.

She is also seeking punitive damages and a statement from the judge that Leavitt’s policies and procedures “allow cases involving women victims to be dismissed on grounds of injustice.” lawful,” violates the constitutional right to equal protection.

“The whole incident just made me nervous on every level,” Koehler said. “I cannot express how many more revisions this has caused me.”

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/01/05/utah-county-attorney-sued/ The Utah District Attorney sued after he denied tracking charges against a political sponsor

Yasmin Harisha

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