CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Sean Reyes ‘deeply saddened’ by Tim Ballard allegations, won’t endorse in Senate race

Sep 29, 2023, 8:23 AM | Updated: 2:06 pm

AG sean reyes...

Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General speaks in the Gold room at the Capitol on Jan. 23. Reyes on Friday issued a statement distancing himself from Tim Ballard following allegations of sexual misconduct. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes on Friday said he’s “shocked and deeply saddened” by allegations of sexual misconduct against his longtime friend and former Operation Underground Railroad CEO Tim Ballard.

Reyes also appeared to distance himself from Ballard by saying he wouldn’t endorse anyone in Utah’s upcoming 2024 Senate race. It was widely expected that Reyes would support Ballard, who said he is considering running for Sen. Mitt Romney’s seat.

The statement was issued in response to a press conference Thursday, during which an attorney said to be representing several anonymous women accused Ballard of “sexual harassment, spiritual manipulation, grooming and sexual misconduct.”

The accusations follow similar allegations previously reported by Vice News.

Ballard has denied all allegations and called the timing “highly suspicious” in light of his considered political campaign. On the Adam Corolla podcast on Wednesday, he again denied the accusations and detailed the so-called “couples ruse” he said was necessary to fool traffickers.

Reyes is a longtime friend of Ballard and accompanied the anti-sex trafficking activist on a rescue mission in Colombia in 2014. The attorney general also lists himself as a producer of the recent hit film “Sound of Freedom,” which is based on Ballard’s career as a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

Here is Reyes’ prepared statement in full, as posted on X, formerly Twitter:

“I am shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations, but these women must be heard to ensure all credible evidence can be presented.

“Such evidence should be appropriately considered by any tribunal that can weigh them against contrary evidence or defenses of the accused. I sincerely hope there is due process and justice for all involved.

“Until we know more through the resolution of these cases and complaints, I strongly believe that Tim Ballard and OUR deserve a presumption of innocence just as women coming forward on these issues should have a presumption of credibility. … I don’t have any information that can prove or disprove these claims.

“I can say that in all my interactions with Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad over many years, I have never seen or experienced anything improper or illegal. To the contrary, what I have witnessed and the work we have done together raising awareness of modern-day slavery, rescuing children and providing aftercare services has made, I believe, a positive impact on the world,” Reyes said in the post.

He went on to say his office will continue to combat human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.

Alan Crooks, Reyes’ general consultant, added, “In light of so many unanswered questions and concerns, AG Reyes will not be endorsing anyone in Utah’s 2024 U.S. Senate race.”

Operation Underground Railroad issued a statement Thursday in response to the most recent allegations, saying Ballard left the organization in June after an “independent, external investigation of the allegation.”

Several former Operation Underground Railroad staffers alleged that Ballard may have misled donors about the organization’s purported “rescue” missions, according to investigative documents obtained by KSL.com last week.

Ballard responds to allegations

In addition to explaining the “couples ruse” to Corolla, Ballard addressed accusations that he sent a woman a photo of himself and that he showered and shared a bed with women pretending to be his wife.

He doesn’t know who the anonymous accusers might be, and said he has been talking with the “five or six” female operators he worked with.

“In fact, they’re doing videos and they’re posting, saying nothing ever happened,” he said.

Ballard also talked to Corolla about a photo he is accused of sending to a woman. It shows him lying on a couch in his underwear, covered with several of what he says are henna tattoos, as part of his undercover role, including a Spanish expletive and a barbed wire heart. Ballard said the photo was taken by the henna tattoo artist named Katie, to help recreate the tattoos because he returned to the role multiple times.

“That’s the entirety of the picture, that’s it,” he said.

In the podcast, Ballard flatly denied sleeping in the same bed with women. He said the “closest that allegation would come from” is getting a couples massage as part of the ruse.

Ballard’s wife, Katherine, who was involved in portions of the interview, said they would be on separate beds, and Ballard agreed. He said operations including women often involved getting accommodations with multiple rooms so they could enter the same space, but sleep separately.

He spoke about a specific operation to rescue 27 kids at the “Spa Bonhavo” in the Dominican Republic, from which he believes the allegation of showering with women came.

Ballard said a woman was posing as his wife on that operation, and they were getting a mud treatment and massage at the spa in order to have enough time for Ballard to recover intel about sex traffickers from the workers. He said the workers didn’t leave the room to let them shower because they needed to prepare for the massage and said they both wore bathing suits in the shower, and he threw a towel over the window for privacy.

“She goes in. I go in. We don’t even touch each other,” Ballard said.

He said he and the woman later talked about the awkwardness of that incident, insinuating the event was like a game of telephone that got relayed as taking showers together.

Ballard claims the 27 children were locked in a chicken coop, being raped for money by sex tourists and said if weren’t for this shower, his cover would have been blown.

Throughout the episode, Corolla and Ballard rail on the “left” as attacking him after he announced a possible run for Senate and his affiliation with former President Donald Trump. Ballard claimed the initial reports from Vice News were “hit pieces.”

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Sean Reyes ‘deeply saddened’ by Tim Ballard allegations, won’t endorse in Senate race