Tim Ballard is under criminal investigation after a woman reported her sexual assault allegation to police

Police report details how a woman contacted Lindon police Nov. 1 to report the alleged assault; Ballard spokesman calls it a ‘charade’.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, at the group's "Share Our Light" gala in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Lindon police are investigating a woman’s allegation that Ballard sexually assaulted her.

Lindon police are investigating a woman’s allegation that embattled anti-trafficking activist Tim Ballard sexually assaulted her, the first known instance of an abuse accusation being made to law enforcement after similar statements made in two civil lawsuits.

On Nov. 1, a woman contacted Lindon police to report Ballard allegedly sexually assaulted her, according to an initial contact report obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through an open records request this week.

”A meeting was set with a detective for the next day,” the record reads. “I have forwarded this case to investigations for the interview.”

There were no other details in the released report about what the woman alleged happened, or what steps the police have taken since she filed her report.

“All I can say is that there was an interview. The case is ongoing. It’s an active investigation,” Lindon Police Chief Mike Brower said Wednesday.

The criminal investigation is the first known case in which a woman has gone to law enforcement to accuse Ballard of sexual assault. In September, seven plaintiffs filed a pair of civil lawsuits against Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad, the anti-child-trafficking nonprofit he founded and was ousted from in June. They alleged that Ballard exploited a tactic called the “couples ruse” — in which he and a woman would pose as a couple while on an undercover mission — to engage in sexual misconduct ranging from groping to sexual assault and battery.

Ballard “vehemently denies” the allegations in the lawsuits, according to a statement from Ken Krogue, president of The SPEAR Fund, an anti-trafficking organization where Ballard is now listed as a senior adviser.

Suzette Rasmussen, an attorney for the seven plaintiffs, is listed in the Lindon police report as a contact for the woman who called police Nov. 1. Rasmussen confirmed the contents of the record, adding, “at this time I cannot comment about any specific details due to ongoing investigations.”

The Tribune generally does not publish the names of alleged sexual assault victims without their permission. The Tribune also does not typically identify those accused of crimes unless prosecutors file charges, but sexual assault allegations against Ballard have been made public in the two lawsuits and have been widely reported.

Krogue said in his statement that Ballard has not been informed of the woman’s report to police or contacted by law enforcement.

“The fact that a purported criminal complaint has been leaked to the media is even further evidence of the true intent behind this charade,” the statement said. “It is designed to stir up a media frenzy, to harm the reputation of Mr. Ballard, and to impede his and others’ efforts to fight sex trafficking industry.”

The record was provided to The Tribune after a reporter filed open records requests, following the filing of the lawsuits.

Krogue noted that it is up to law enforcement to decide if a complaint warrants investigation. After an investigation, prosecutors decide whether to file criminal charges.

“The fact that one or more of the women suddenly supposedly realized that they were victimized by a crime raises questions as to their credibility and intentions that will be answered in the pending litigation,” Krogue said.

Research has shown it’s common for alleged sexual assault victims to delay reporting a crime to the police.

Rasmussen said victims often fear for their safety and privacy. The women she represents, she said, are “telling their stories in their own way and on their own terms as they work on healing and recovering.” Her clients are concerned, she added, that Ballard has relationships with law enforcement agencies as a result of his work with them through OUR.

“Furthermore, they have been afraid that the state’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General [Sean] Reyes, is protecting Ballard and OUR, as he is seen publicly praising, supporting and promoting them,” Rasmussen said, “and therefore they would be put in more danger for reporting it.”

Reyes’ close relationship with Ballard is now among the subjects of a legislative audit, which will look into whether the decadelong friendship impacted his prosecutorial discretion, whether Reyes spoke with law enforcement agencies investigating Ballard, and whether state resources were used to help Ballard and OUR.

Additionally, Rasmussen said, when her clients took their allegations to OUR, they felt the organization failed to hold Ballard accountable. Knowing the allegations, she said, OUR promoted the movie, “The Sound of Freedom,” based generally on Ballard’s story, while it “claimed to be an organization that ‘fights against sexual exploitation and abuse.’”

Tribune reporter Jessica Miller contributed to this story.

Correction: 3:35 p.m., Nov. 16, 2023 • This story has been updated to clarify OUR’s relationship with the movie “Sound of Freedom”.

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