Operation Underground Railroad training left a woman’s eye socket shattered, a lawsuit against founder Tim Ballard and OUR alleges

The latest suit says the Virginia woman was injured when two operators fell on her head at OUR’s gym in Draper and seeks damages for the lingering injury.

(Evan Vucci | AP) Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, attends a meeting on human trafficking in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Washington. A new lawsuit alleges a woman was injured while training for an OUR mission.

A woman is suing Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad, the anti-child-trafficking group he founded, alleging her eye socket was shattered while she was training at OUR’s Draper gym for a potential rescue operation.

The woman, Jordana Bree Righter, was interviewed for a VICE News story published last week that identified her using a pseudonym.

According to the suit filed Monday in 3rd District Court, Righter, who served in the Marines, was interested in participating in an OUR mission and was training at a gym OUR runs in Draper. During one of the exercises, the lawsuit alleges, would-be operatives were grappling on a mat and Righter was struck in the face by the two men, shattering her eye socket.

Ballard refused to call an ambulance, the suit alleges, because he wanted to avoid any record of the injury occurring. Righter had to have surgery on her eye to remove bone fragments and replace the socket with a silicone and titanium plate, the lawsuit states, and she still experiences double vision, swelling, headaches, brain fog and neck soreness.

The Salt Lake Tribune reached out to a spokesperson for Ballard but did not immediately receive a response.

In the VICE interview, Righter described the operation she joined — in the British Virgin Islands — as haphazard, with little preparation, poor organization, possible entrapment issues and poor security protocols that exposed operators to unnecessary risks.

For much of the time that Righter, Ballard and the other operators were in the British Virgin Islands, they stayed at a beachfront home and on a yacht, the lawsuit says. They spent several days partying and going to various strip clubs trying to find underage girls, the complaint says.

It also alleges that Ballard encouraged another OUR employee, who was posing as Righter’s boyfriend as part of the “couples ruse” — where operators would act as if they were partners while on operations — to be more sexually aggressive with her, leading to her being touched inappropriately.

The suit names Ballard, OUR and that employee, and alleges sexual battery, fraud and negligence. It seeks unspecified damages.

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, OUR emphasized that any allegation that it is “the alter ego of Tim Ballard is false,” and said it will “defend the organization against the plaintiff’s misguided attempts to create confusion by painting a false narrative.”

While Ballard was the “public face” of OUR as its CEO, “he directly participated in less than 1% of OUR’s operations between January 2020 and his departure in June 2023, and his operations were not representative of the vast majority of OUR’s work,” the nonprofit said in its statement.

“The current leadership of O.U.R. has increased its commitment to provide a safe, respectful and harassment-free environment,” it added, “and we are deeply sorry for any harm or distress that Tim Ballard’s actions may have caused to anyone associated with O.U.R.”

Monday’s filing is the latest suit targeting Ballard and OUR. Two previous lawsuits filed on behalf of seven plaintiffs — six women and the husband of one of the women — accuse Ballard of using the child rescue missions as a pretense to manipulate and coerce the women into engaging in various sexual situations, ranging from lap dances to inappropriate touching to assault.

Ballard has issued statements denying the allegations. Righter is represented in her new lawsuit by the same attorneys that represented the plaintiffs in the sexual misconduct cases.

At least one of the women has also gone to law enforcement. A police report obtained by The Tribune showed she contacted officers earlier this month and Lindon Police Chief Mike Brower confirmed there is an active investigation underway.