COURTS & LEGAL

Amended lawsuit against Tim Ballard accuses Utah AG Sean Reyes of witness tampering

Nov 3, 2023, 4:55 PM | Updated: 7:01 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Five women who accused Tim Ballard of sexual misconduct allege in a new court filing that Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes tried to protect the founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad against complaints filed against him and the organization.

The women on Thursday filed an amended complaint in a civil lawsuit brought Oct. 9, claiming that Reyes served as “de facto general counsel” to Operation Underground Railroad, an anti-child trafficking organization. Reyes is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit and denies the allegations.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings began investigating Operation Underground Railroad after receiving complaints that the organization was taking credit for work performed by others, according to the lawsuit.

“Upon learning of these complaints, Attorney General Reyes would step in, and rather than investigate what OUR and Tim Ballard were doing, would intimidate the complainants,” the lawsuit claims.

In a lengthy statement to KSL.com, the Utah Attorney General’s Office said the allegations that it withheld an investigation into Ballard or his organization are “completely baseless.”

“AG Reyes categorically denies that he ever intimidated any witness or attempted in any way to interfere or keep witnesses from testifying or cooperating with an investigation by the Davis County attorney or any other agency,” the statement says. “These allegations … are false, defamatory per se and unethical as they are based on pure speculation and have no basis in fact.”

The amended lawsuit goes on to allege that several witnesses withdrew their complaint and “became very nervous, which anxiety was justified as both plaintiff and Troy Rawlings were threatened with a lawsuit by OUR and Tim Ballard.”

The lawsuit purportedly includes an email sent by Rawlings on Dec. 23, 2022, in which he states that a “critical and highly credible” witness in his investigation decided not to cooperate after they were “contacted directly by one of your clients.” That email was sent to several attorneys, including Alessandro Serano, chief legal officer for Operation Underground Railroad, though it’s unclear who the clients Rawlings refers to are.

The attorneys allege that Reyes forwarded future complaints to Ballard “on his personal email, instead of his official Utah email.”

Rawlings issued a statement in response to the allegations Friday, saying the investigation he conducted returned “insufficient evidence” to charge anyone in his jurisdiction, including Reyes.

“During the course of the prior investigation, which was primarily done by the FBI, the investigative team received numerous allegations against a plethora of individuals,” Rawlings said. “There was insufficient evidence to charge any individual with crimes in Davis County, including Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.”

Reyes himself is not named as a defendant in the suit. Reyes — who has had a long relationship with Ballard — was mentioned in the initial suit as having given credibility to Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad.

Suzette Robinson, an attorney representing the women, said they amended their complaint “so that their allegations … can be proven in court so the world can know the fraud Tim Ballard.”

It was widely believed that Reyes was planning to endorse Ballard to fill Sen. Mitt Romney’s seat in 2024, but he has since tried to distance himself publicly from Ballard and said he wouldn’t endorse anyone in the race.

Ballard has previously denied all accusations of sexual misconduct, describing a “couples ruse” he said was designed and used to fool traffickers on undercover missions.

Rawlings closed his investigation into Operation Underground Railroad earlier this year and did not file any criminal charges.

Documents from Rawlings’ investigation obtained by KSL.com in September show that several former Operation Underground Railroad employees told investigators they believed the organization was misleading donors by exaggerating claims about purported rescue missions.

In previous statements to KSL.com, Operation Underground Railroad has said Ballard resigned following an independent investigation and emphasized that it remains committed to its efforts “to rescue any and all from the scourge of human trafficking.”

Ballard left Operation Underground Railroad in June, following an independent investigation into allegations made during his time as CEO.

Contributing: Annie Knox and Lindsay Aerts, KSL TV

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Amended lawsuit against Tim Ballard accuses Utah AG Sean Reyes of witness tampering