Allegations against Tim Ballard ‘ought to be taken seriously,’ Utah A.G. Sean Reyes says

Five women allege in a lawsuit filed Monday that the founder of Operation Underground Railroad sexually assaulted them.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said Tuesday morning the allegations contained in a lawsuit against Tim Ballard “are serious and ought to be taken seriously.”

Ballard and the anti-trafficking group he founded, Operation Underground Railroad, were sued on Monday by five women alleging they’d been sexually assaulted by Ballard during OUR operations. That lawsuit comes on the heels of other damaging allegations of improper sexual behavior and shady business dealings involving Ballard. Those allegations drew a rare public rebuke from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“These allegations, which I believe are serious and ought to be taken seriously, I hope they don’t in any way diminish the resolve that we have as a community, as a state, definitely in my office to continue to attack the issue of human trafficking,” Reyes said in his first public comments since reports about Ballard surfaced last month.

Reyes has been a close ally of Ballard for nearly a decade. He accompanied Ballard and OUR on a 2015 mission to Colombia. That operation was a key plot point for “Sound of Freedom,” a fictionalized biographical movie about Ballard released earlier this year. Reyes was given an associate producer credit on the film but said he did not receive any compensation for that role.

The lawsuit against Ballard specifically mentions Reyes’ support for Ballard’s anti-trafficking efforts as “giving Ballard the cover of the top law enforcement officer in the state of Utah to carry out his purposes … even while consumer complaints and criminal investigations were pouring into his office” about Ballard and OUR.

“I’m not aware of being named in any complaint, I believe. A civil complaint was filed against Mr. Ballard, Operation Underground Railroad and perhaps other defendants. I haven’t had a chance to review that in-depth,” Reyes said.

Reyes said Tuesday that he is unaware of any complaints about Ballard received by his office. A criminal investigation into Ballard and OUR by the Davis County Attorney and the FBI was closed in 2022 with no charges filed. Evidence from that investigation was shared with the Utah attorney general’s office, who later told The Salt Lake Tribune that Reyes had been walled off from that information because of his relationship with Ballard.

Following Sen. Mitt Romney’s decision not to run for another term next year, Ballard was preparing to jump into the race to replace him with Reyes’ full support. Reyes has since reversed course and withdrawn his backing for Ballard’s political ambitions.

Salt Lake Tribune visual journalist Bethany Baker filmed the video in this story.