Tim Ballard’s attorneys can depose woman who accused OUR founder of sexual assault, judge says

Ballard’s lawyers claim his executive assistant stole private documents for her lawsuit and want those documents excluded from the case.

(Sarah Silbiger | The New York Times) Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, talks during a meeting about human trafficking on the southern border of the U.S., in the Cabinet Room of the White House, in Washington, Feb. 1, 2019. Ballard's attorneys have been given permission to depose one of his former assistants who has alleged Ballard sexually assaulted her.

A judge has granted Tim Ballard’s attorneys permission to conduct a two-hour deposition of Celeste Borys, one of numerous women alleging they were sexually abused or assaulted by the Operation Underground Railroad founder,

Borys was Ballard’s executive assistant until last fall when she sued Ballard for sexual assault. Subsequently, she has filed criminal complaints in Utah and California.

Ballards’ attorneys aim to have Borys explain how she obtained a series of documents that were later included in the lawsuits. They allege that Borys stole the documents and want them excluded from the litigation. Borys’ attorneys have countered that the records were not privileged and that Ballard had given Borys permission to access his files for any reason.

Borys’ attorneys will also get to take a limited deposition of Ballard regarding whether he consented to Borys having the documents.

The depositions — approved by a judge on Tuesday — are scheduled to take place on April 24. The documents in question have been used as exhibits in all four lawsuits brought against Ballard and their disqualification, if a judge rules that way, could impact the prospects of the claims against Ballard.

Meanwhile, Ballard’s attorneys have also asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Bree Righter, a former Marine who suffered a badly broken eye socket during an OUR training. The motion to dismiss contends that Righter’s lawyers did not clearly state how Ballard was to blame either for her injury or alleged sexual abuse by another OUR employee.

In her lawsuit filed in November, Righter says she was training at a gym OUR runs in Draper when two would-be operatives grappling on a mat fell on her face, shattering her eye socket. The suit alleges Ballard refused to call an ambulance because he wanted no record of the incident.

However, Ballard’s attorneys claim an ambulance was called and that “multiple eyewitnesses have confirmed that Mr. Ballard was not at the training.”

One of those witnesses, a former OUR contractor, Jeremy Locke, told The Salt Lake Tribune in an interview arranged by Ballard’s defense team that he was at the training at the Draper gym when Righter was injured. “She was hurt,” Locke said. “It was loud and I watched it and she rolled over on her back and she was in pain and discomfort.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jordana Bree Righter is latest woman suing Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad. Righter's lawsuit says her eye socket was shattered while she was training for a rescue operation. Righter pointed to the area of the injury during a news conference in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.

She was cared for by a physician’s assistant who was on hand before being taken to the hospital, Locke said, adding, “I have no recollection of Tim Ballard being there.”

“I don’t remember him being there at all for that instruction, and I definitely don’t remember him being back there when she was [being cared for],” Locke said.

Righter’s attorney, Suzette Rasmussen, said they “look forward to presenting the video evidence we have of Ms. Righter’s injury to the court.”

“We have faith in the court process to expose the truth — that OUR and Tim Ballard abused and profited from the women who had nothing to give but their continued dedication to helping children,” Rasmussen said.

Updates on other lawsuits around Ballard and OUR

A flurry of other motions were also filed in several cases surrounding Ballard and OUR:

• Attorneys for Ballard’s wife, Katherine Ballard, filed a motion to dismiss her from the suit, arguing the allegations against her centered on public statements she made defending her husband that are protected speech.

• Lawyers for Janet Russon, a psychic who allegedly provided Ballard and OUR with guidance on rescuing trafficked kids, sought to have her dismissed from the lawsuits, as well, arguing none of the specific allegations in the lawsuit are enough to make her complicit in either the purported sexual assaults or fraud.

• OUR attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against the nonprofit and Ballard by Suzanne Whitehead, a woman who worked on trafficking issues and alleged they tried to silence her public claims that the organization was deceptively taking credit for the work of others.