From conservative audiences flocked to sound of freedom this summer, turning a biopic about Tim Ballard’s alleged exploits as an anti-trafficking operator into a unlikely hit, Ballard has seen his heroic mythology quickly stripped away in a series of lawsuits, formal reprimands, and dissolved relationships. But in recent days his legal problems have gotten even worse…and now Operation Underground Railroad (OUR), the advocacy group he founded in 2013, is also in the crosshairs.
Ballard was apparently forced out from Utah-based OUR, ahead of the premiere of the sound of freedom, Based on information that emerged after the film’s release and press tour, in September, reports confirmed that he left due to an internal investigation related to sexual misconduct claims. The following month, five women filed a lawsuit alleging that he had sexually assaulted and emotionally abused them while they participated in OUR operations, which typically involved traveling abroad and posing as sexual predators in “sting” operations aimed at catching pedophiles. A second lawsuit from an anonymous couple claimed that such behavior between Ballard and his wife in sting operations had caused the couple to separate. Ballard has denied these claims in statements conducted through another anti-trafficking organization, SPEAR Fund, which until recently listed him as a senior advisor but no longer features him as a team member on its website.
LANZA did not return Rolling StoneRequest for comment, neither did Ballard.
OUR has made efforts to move on after cutting ties with Ballard, but a new lawsuit from a former operative targets both the group and its embattled founder. Also mentioned in the presentation is former OUR security director Matt Cooper, Ballard’s principal. first employee there, who is also no longer in the organization. The lawsuit, filed by social worker Bree Righter, a Navy veteran who rose to the rank of corporal, relates to alleged sexual misconduct by men on an undercover mission and a serious eye injury she suffered during a training exercise. in 2021 in an OUR gym, according to Vice Newyes, which reviewed the complaint. “Ballard was present and refused to call an ambulance because he did not want any record of the event that occurred at OUR training.” the lawsuit claims – and Righter required extensive surgery and an eye socket implant to replace a shattered orbital bone. As a result, she has suffered long-term vision problems, the filing states.
In the lawsuit, Righter also claims she traveled to the British Virgin Islands with Ballard and Cooper, where she was assigned to act as the latter’s romantic partner in a covert ploy Ballard has called the “couple ruse.” Other women who sued the ousted OUR leader allege that he would use this as a pretext to force them to have sex, supposedly to convince potential traffickers that their fake identities were authentic. In this case, Righter alleges, Ballard used the agreement to pressure her into having sex with Cooper. Furthermore, she claims, Ballard and her own cheating partner treated the mission like a debauched vacation, visiting bars, strip clubs and massage parlors. Attempts to contact Cooper were unsuccessful.
“It became very apparent to plaintiff that OUR was only focused on allowing its famous founder, defendant Tim Ballard, to live the lavish lifestyle of a wealthy sex tourist and to manipulate and sexually abuse employees, contractors and volunteers under the pretext to save children. the lawsuit alleges. The filing also claims that OUR showed little regard for the safety of its staff and volunteers, focusing instead on creating a marketable public image. (sound of freedom would be the end result of those branding efforts). In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, an OUR spokesperson attempted to downplay Ballard’s role before his departure. “While Tim Ballard was the public face of the organization during his tenure as CEO, he was directly involved in less than one percent of OUR’s operations between January 2020 and his departure in June 2023,” the organization said in the statement, adding that “the accusation that OUR is Tim Ballard’s alter ego is false.”
It’s not just civil lawsuits that dog Ballard. He Salt Lake Grandstand reported last week that a investigation criminal had been opened later Celeste Borys, Ballard’s former assistant and one of the women who sued him for sexual and emotional abuse, made an official police report earlier this month in Lindon, Utah. This also prompted a statement from the SPEAR Fund, which sought to cast doubt on the verified criminal complaint against Ballard. The story, SPEAR President Ken Krogue said, “is designed to cause a media frenzy, damage Mr. Ballard’s reputation, and impede his and others’ efforts to fight the sex trafficking industry.”
While Ballard previously had strong allies in Utah to help him in such dire circumstances, this may no longer be the case. In September, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he is a member, took the extraordinary step of publicly condemning him for “morally unacceptable” behavior, and deleted articles promoting Ballard and his work from his website. He has said that he does not believe In fact, the institution issued a statement against him. (The church has not confirmed the rumor that they have also revoked his membership.) Meanwhile, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, an old friend of Ballard’s who has been involved in OUR activities, is in line for an audit by state legislators who will look for any signs of corruption in the relationship.
If Ballard is arrested in connection with Borys’ sexual assault allegation, it would all but conclude his rapid and stunning fall from national recognition in the span of just six months. But even without charges filed in that case, it seems unlikely that he will regain the kind of reputation that once led to his appointment to a White House anti-human trafficking advisory panel by then-President Trump. As Borys put it in a statement to the media on Tuesday: “The same organization that claims to fight traffickers handed me over to a trafficker.”
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