Sep 30, 2022 - News

Utah County "ritualistic" sex abuse case moves forward

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Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith announced this week he arrested a former therapist, David Hamblin, in a "ritualistic child sex abuse" case. The case also led to disputed claims of rape and cannibalism against recently unseated county prosecutor David Leavitt.

  • But the arrest documents focus almost entirely on allegations that Hamblin assaulted three children, with no discussion of a ring of "ritualistic" abuse.

Catch up quick: Hamblin was linked to a multicounty investigation that Smith announced in May, saying his office had confirmed some decades-old allegations of ritualistic abuse and child trafficking.

  • That day, a fugitive Leavitt was trying to prosecute posted online that Smith's office had leaked evidence Leavitt was involved in the ritualistic abuse.
  • Amid rumors that Leavitt and his wife were involved with cannibalism and sex abuse, Leavitt said in a press conference he was falsely accused in a report from that period and denied the allegation.

The big picture: Smith, a critic of Leavitt, announced the abuse investigation less than a month before the GOP primary.

  • Leavitt claimed the allegations were part of a ploy to derail his reelection. He called for an investigation into whether Smith had leaked the report accusing him as an accomplice of Hamblin.
  • Leavitt was also attacked by an array of right-wing operators, who claimed Leavitt would open the state to drug cartels and sex trafficking rings.

Context: The political right has made claims of rampant child sex trafficking to energize base voters.

Of note: Leavitt, who is still serving as the county attorney, is not prosecuting the case against Hamblin.

  • The state attorney general's office appointed the Juab County attorney as special prosecutor, according to Hamblin's arrest records.

Details: Arrest documents obtained by Axios detail a rape report made in April by a woman who was Hamblin's neighbor in the 1980s, when she was 6 or 7 years old.

  • She reported three assaults by him, including one where two other children were also assaulted and another where he was joined by an unnamed woman.
  • The two other children identified in the first allegation corroborated the woman's statement, police wrote.

Yes, and: Fox 13 reported Hamblin also faces abuse allegations from family members as well as at least one patient who said Hamblin performed anti-gay conversion therapy on him.

  • The new arrest documents allege Hamblin continues to perform "therapy" without a license "under the guise of 'healing circles'" — but they don't describe associated ritual abuse.
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