LOCAL NEWS

Utah AG Sean Reyes releases statement on allegations of sexual misconduct against Tim Ballard

Sep 29, 2023, 7:54 AM | Updated: Sep 30, 2023, 9:49 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s top prosecutor broke his silence today on Operation Underground Railroad and its former leader, Tim Ballard.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has issued a statement after a press conference held by an attorney representing at least five women alleging sexual misconduct by the founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, Tim Ballard.

“I am shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations, but these women must be heard to ensure all credible evidence can be presented,” read part of Reyes’ statement, which can be read in its entirety at the end of this article. “Such evidence should be appropriately considered by any tribunal that can weigh them against contrary evidence or defenses of the accused. I sincerely hope there is due process and justice for all involved.

“Until we know more through the resolution of these cases and complaints, I strongly believe that Tim Ballard and OUR deserve a presumption of innocence just as women coming forward on these issues should have a presumption of credibility.

“Beyond that, I won’t comment on the accusations made yesterday because I was not present to witness any of the alleged conduct. I don’t have any information that can prove or disprove these claims.”

Reyes and Ballard, longtime friends, have joined forces for over a decade, raising awareness about human trafficking. But now that relationship is under the microscope.

Ballard has strongly denied any wrongdoing during these operations. In fact, he appeared in a podcast in just the last 24 hours defending his actions. Documents obtained by KSL through a public records request show The Attorney General’s Office was involved in a criminal investigation into OUR conducted by the Davis County Attorney’s Office and the FBI. That inquiry ended in May with no charges filed.

The records reveal that in 2020 Reyes was walled off from the case by his own office because of his ties to OUR. Richard Piatt, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, told KSL that Reyes and his office played no role in the investigation ending without prosecution.

Reyes first went on an undercover, overseas mission with OUR in 2014. The following year, he and Ballard testified about human trafficking before a congressional panel. And Reyes was a producer for his recent hit movie Sounds of Freedom.

Reyes’ campaign told KSL that after the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to file charges in the criminal investigation this year, “AG Reyes had no reason not to promote Sound of Freedom or appear on Tim Ballard’s podcast.”

The records obtained by KSL show Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings wrote to Reyes earlier this year, saying Reyes might be called to testify at a court hearing. Rawlings also sent an email to Reyes stating that an OUR mission used intel from a psychic.

But Reyes’ general consultant, Alan Crooks, told KSL that Reyes didn’t read those emails and didn’t know about specifics of the investigation because he’d been barred from involvement in the case.

Attorney Suzette Rasmussen, who is representing “several” women, spoke at the Utah Capitol Thursday, saying those women were victims of sexual misconduct by Ballard.

Rasmussen also clarified details in a report first made public by Vice News that Ballard would allegedly coerce women into sharing a bed or showering together for a tactic he described as the “couple’s ruse.” The tactic involved acting as Ballard’s wife or girlfriend. Ballard has said the tactic was necessary to fool child sex traffickers; Rasmussen said the women feel Ballard “crossed the line.”

“We now stand together to affirm the truth behind these allegations,” Rasmussen said, reading a statement on behalf of the victims.

Ballard issued a statement on Sept. 24 in response to the allegations in which he explained the “couple’s ruse.” Ballard has previously called the allegations “false,” saying they are intended to hurt his credibility.

“I can say that in all my interactions with Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad over many years, I have never seen or experienced anything improper or illegal,” Reyes said. “To the contrary, what I have witnessed and the work we have done together raising awareness of modern-day slavery, rescuing children and providing aftercare services has made, I believe, a positive impact in the world.”

Reyes’ general consultant Alan Crooks added Reyes will not be endorsing anyone in Utah’s 2024 U.S. Senate race. Ballard was rumored to be considering a run for the seat, which will be open after Sen. Mitt Romney announced he will not be seeking re-election next year.

On Sept. 13, Reyes said the open seat “opens up an opportunity for a dear friend of mine who is a great conservative, patriot, and warrior to run and serve as the next Senator from Utah. This person will be making an announcement in the days to come and I will be standing alongside this servant leader on a journey to the United States Senate.”

Reyes’ full statement reads:

“I am shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations, but these women must be heard to ensure all credible evidence can be presented. Such evidence should be appropriately considered by any tribunal that can weigh them against contrary evidence or defenses of the accused. I sincerely hope there is due process and justice for all involved.

“Until we know more through the resolution of these cases and complaints, I strongly believe that Tim Ballard and OUR deserve a presumption of innocence just as women coming forward on these issues should have a presumption of credibility.

“Beyond that, I won’t comment on the accusations made yesterday because I was not present to witness any of the alleged conduct. I don’t have any information that can prove or disprove these claims.

“I can say that in all my interactions with Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad over many years, I have never seen or experienced anything improper or illegal.

“To the contrary, what I have witnessed and the work we have done together raising awareness of modern-day slavery, rescuing children and providing aftercare services has made, I believe, a positive impact in the world.

“The Utah AG’s Office will continue to do the difficult but critical work of combating human trafficking and other forms of exploitation through the investigations, prosecutions and victim advocacy of its SECURE Strike Force, Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (ICAC), Children’s Justice Centers and the Utah Trafficking in Persons Task Force.”

In addition, AG Reyes’ general consultant Alan Crooks added, “In light of so many unanswered questions and concerns, AG Reyes will not be endorsing anyone in Utah’s 2024 U.S. Senate race.”

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Utah AG Sean Reyes releases statement on allegations of sexual misconduct against Tim Ballard