Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes allegedly sought to intimidate people who complained of unethical behavior by Tim Ballard and the organization he founded, Operation Underground Railroad, according to new claims in a lawsuit filed by five women who are accusing Ballard of sexual misconduct.
An amended complaint in the case, filed Thursday evening, alleges that Reyes pressured individuals not to criticize OUR for taking credit for the work their organizations had done. Some people also had contacted Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings and were subpoenaed as part of his investigation into OUR, the complaint said.
“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 suit alleges.
The new filing includes an apparent draft timeline prepared by OUR attorneys, detailing their meetings with Rawlings. At a December 2022 meeting, it says, Rawlings “alleged that AG Reyes was guilty of witness tampering.”
“Rawlings alleged to have written communication from AG Reyes to a witness requesting the witness not to cooperate with Rawlings in the investigation,” the summary states. “Rawlings further alleged that Ballard requested AG Reyes to send the written communication.”
A statement from Reyes’ office Thursday night said that the attorney general “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.”
“These allegations ... are false, defamatory per se and unethical as they are based on pure speculation and have no basis in fact,” the statement said. “The Davis County Attorney, himself, validated that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation that the AG tampered with, harassed or intimidated any witnesses.”
Rawlings declined to comment Thursday. He never pursued witness tampering charges against anyone in connection with OUR. The small number of documents from his investigation that have been made public don’t include any record of his assessment of the written communication described in the new filing.
When, according to the suit, Rawlings told Reyes that OUR was threatening to sue him, Reyes passed the information onto Ballard, who apparently said it was false.
At the time, Reyes had officially recused himself from any involvement in the investigation into OUR. That separation was due to Reyes’ decadelong friendship with Ballard, which included participating in OUR operations, fundraising events, speaking engagements, appearing in promotional videos and receiving an associate producer credit on the movie “Sound of Freedom,” based generally on Ballard’s origin story.
A total of seven plaintiffs are suing Ballard in two separate lawsuits, alleging he played on their desire to help stop child trafficking to coerce six of them into various sexual situations, from inappropriate texting and touching to sexual assault.
Ballard has denied the allegations and compared his accusers to the “innocent women and children who are pawns in the horrific events in Israel at the hands of the terrorist group Hamas.”
In September, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement rebuking Ballard for “morally unacceptable behavior.” According to an email sent from conservative media host Glenn Beck to Ballard — and attached to the lawsuit — Beck consulted with Reyes and Utah Sen. Mike Lee about how Ballard should respond.
After talking to the women accusing Ballard of misconduct, Beck has since said he believes he was “duped” by Ballard.
Previously, the lawsuit had alleged that Reyes’ public endorsements of OUR and Ballard had the effect of “giving Ballard the cover of the top law enforcement officer in the State of Utah to carry out his purposes.”
Reyes’ office said that the attorney general would not open a case when Rawlings was already investigating and, since the time that investigation was closed, no other complainants have come forward, including the women suing Ballard.
“Any suggestion ... that the [Attorney General] or [Attorney General’s Office] were or are withholding an investigation into OUR or Tim Ballard is completely baseless,” the statement said.
Another exhibit attached to the lawsuit reveals for the first time that OUR may have asked the attorney general’s office to investigate whether Rawlings had violated Ballard’s constitutional rights.
A 32-page draft memo dated April 2023 alleges that Rawlings “chose to maliciously and perversely abuse” his prosecutorial power “to harm an organization dedicated to saving and aiding the victims of heinous crimes.” At that point, Rawlings had closed the investigation without filing any charges.
“After nearly three years, his deranged charade has concluded, but the harm inflicted on OUR and its effort to save trafficking victims was severe,” the memo states. “He must be held accountable to protect the public from him, and only the Attorney General has the mandate and power to do so.”
The memo requests that the attorney general appoint a special prosecutor to investigate if Rawlings overstepped the law during the investigation into Ballard and OUR. There is no indication if the finalized memo was sent to the attorney general or if any action was taken on the request.
Asked at a news conference in October if his office knew about Ballard’s alleged misconduct, the attorney general said, “We’re not aware of any complaints our office received.”
Earlier Reyes had issued a statement saying he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the revelations and that “these women must be heard to ensure all credible evidence can be presented.”
“I can say that in all my interactions with Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad over many years,” he said, “I have never seen or experienced anything improper or illegal.”