Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is facing new accusations surrounding his relationship with embattled anti-trafficking activist Tim Ballard, according to a recent amended complaint which alleges Reyes tried to intimidate critics of Operation Underground Railroad.
The complaint, filed Thursday in Salt Lake’s 3rd District Court, is the latest in a lawsuit brought forward by five women accusing Ballard of sexual assault.
The complaint claims Reyes, a longtime friend of Ballard, was guilty of possible witness tampering and that his actions impeded an investigation into Operation Underground Railroad conducted by the Davis County Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
In a statement, Reyes’ office called the claims “false,” “defamatory,” and “unethical as they are based on pure speculation and have no basis in fact.”
“AG Reyes categorically denies that he ever intimidated any witness or attempted in any way to interfere or keep witnesses from testifying or cooperating with an investigation by the Davis County Attorney or any other agency,” the statement reads.
Reyes is not listed as a defendant in the civil suit.
Court documents claim that when complaints of fraud and sex abuse by Ballard started coming into the Attorney General’s Office, it was determined that the Davis County Attorney’s Office would investigate because of Reyes’ close relationship with the organization.
The Davis County Investigation team then started receiving tips from organizations that claimed Operation Underground Railroad was taking credit for their work and “attacking them” for criticizing Ballard on social media, court documents state.
Davis County allegedly issued subpoenas to the organizations to provide certain documents and testimony relevant to the investigation, according to the court documents.
“Upon learning of these complaints, Attorney General Reyes would step in, and rather than investigate what OUR and Tim Ballard were doing, would intimidate the complainants,” attorneys write in court documents.
Reyes’ office pushed back on this paragraph in the amended complaint, claiming it’s speculative and defamatory.
The Attorney General’s Office “would never open a case that the Davis County DA and FBI were already investigating over a two year span,” the statement reads.
Reyes’ office also noted that in the time since the FBI and Davis County closed their investigations without filing charges, “no complainant has come forward to the (Attorney General’s Office) seeking a further criminal investigation, not even the civil complainants in this case.”
But according to the court documents filed Thursday, key witnesses started to withdraw their complaints, fearing retribution, which impeded the Davis County Investigation.
The amended complaint states that Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings believed Reyes “was guilty of witness tampering.”
“Rawlings alleged to have written communications from AG Reyes to a witness requesting the witness not to cooperate with Rawlings in the Investigation,” the lawsuit claims.
In a statement, Rawlings says the investigations team received numerous allegations “against a plethora of individuals.”
“There was insufficient evidence to charge any individual with crimes in Davis County, including Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes,” Rawlings said.
And according to the statement from Reyes’ office, Rawlings “validated that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation that the AG tampered with, harassed or intimidated any witnesses.”
Lawsuit: Reyes knew about the ‘couples ruse’
Central to the complaint is the accusation that Ballard sexually assaulted multiple women under the guise of the “couples ruse,” a ploy used by Operation Underground Railroad to give men posing as sex traffickers an excuse to not “partake” in illegal activities involving children.
The lawsuit claims that Ballard would ask women to practice the couples ruse before rescue missions. But according to the court documents, “Ballard soon began abusing the couples ruse and eventually used the ruse as a tool for sexual grooming.”
“Is there anything you wouldn’t do to save a child?” Ballard would ask the women, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims that Reyes participated in missions where Ballard was using the couples ruse. According to court documents, Reyes “stayed at the same safe house as Ballard and his ‘ruse’ girlfriends, and was aware of the couples ruse, which given that General Reyes is the highest law enforcement officer in Utah, validated that the couples ruse was a legitimate law enforcement tactic.”
Ballard is facing similar accusations in a separate civil suit which accuses him of sexual assault and grooming. The lawsuit was filed by two married plaintiffs who say Ballard’s actions led to the end of their marriage.