POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

AG Sean Reyes: Tim Ballard lawsuit should be taken seriously, declines to answer specifics

Oct 10, 2023, 5:51 PM | Updated: 6:37 pm

Image of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes as he discusses details of a lawsuit filed against TikTok...

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes discusses details of a lawsuit filed against TikTok as he joins Gov. Spencer Cox at a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes responded to a new lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging fraud and sexual misconduct against his friend, Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard.  

Reyes was asked about the Ballard lawsuit during a press event announcing the state’s lawsuit against TikTok. Reyes has previously spoken out on the allegations broadly via a lengthy statement. Tuesday marked the first time Reyes answered questions from reporters and the first time since the lawsuit with new allegations was publicly filed. 

“I haven’t had a chance to review that in-depth,” he said when asked about the civil complaint. The complaint was filed by five anonymous women alleging sexual assault and battery, and misuse of donor funds among 10 other claims.  

The suit does not name Reyes. But the suit alleges that “consumer and criminal complaints were pouring into his office” while Reyes’ participation in a 2014 operation with Ballard provided Ballard “cover” by Utah’s top law enforcer to carry out “his purposes.” The couple’s ruse  — having women play his wife or girlfriend — was a tactic Ballard claimed he used to fool traffickers so he didn’t have to partake in any unwanted sex acts.

The women allege the couple’s ruse crossed the line. 

“We’re not aware of any complaints that our office received,” Reyes said Tuesday. 

His spokesman, Rich Piatt tried to interrupt the questioning and push the questions back toward the Tik Tok suit but reporters continued to ask what he knew about his friend’s alleged behavior. 

“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 eventually said.  

Reyes, the Ballard lawsuit, and the governor’s concerns

KSL NewsRadio tried to press Reyes about what he knew about the so-called “couple’s ruse” tactic used by Ballard when they went on an operation together in 2014. Reyes did not acknowledge that question. 

The women are accusing Ballard of sexually assaulting them while they were training to play his wife — both on missions and before — by requiring they “practice” the couple’s ruse, including at strip clubs. The suit alleges Ballard misused donor funds by paying for drinks, pills, and lap dances “on OUR’s dime.”

It also alleges that Ballard went “to strip clubs and massage parlors across the world, after flying first class to get there, and staying at 5-star hotels, on boats, and at rental properties across the globe.” 

Reporters asked Gov. Spencer Cox about his response to the lawsuit after the press conference. 

“We’re hearing a lot of people saying they were duped. I certainly feel terrible for the victims that have come forward,” the governor said. “Obviously there will be a day in court. I’m grateful I’m not one who was duped,” Cox said.  

When asked whether he had any concerns about how Reyes acted with regards to Ballard and OUR, Cox said he did not have any details. 

“Until we know more about what happened with the AG’s office, I don’t have anything I can comment on there,” he said. 

Our related reporting:

 

 

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AG Sean Reyes: Tim Ballard lawsuit should be taken seriously, declines to answer specifics