Utah A.G. Sean Reyes encouraged Tim Ballard to sue a state lawmaker, texts show

Reyes wanted Ballard to sue Sen. Nate Blouin after the Salt Lake City Democrat referred to Operation Underground Railroad as a “criminal organization,” according to a lawsuit.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, pose for a photo at the group’s “Share Our Light” gala in Salt Lake City, Saturday November 5, 2016. Reyes was honored for his contribution to anti-trafficking.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes encouraged his friend Tim Ballard to sue a state senator for defamation after the senator posted on social media that the anti-trafficking organization Ballard founded was a “criminal organization,” according to text messages included in a new court filing.

The attorneys for a Colombian woman who is suing Ballard, alleging she was wrongly accused of sexually exploiting children, contend the text messages show the Utah attorney general was “was working lockstep with Ballard, even giving him legal advice” about how to quiet a critic.

“This state legislator is a punk,” Reyes texted Ballard in a message included in the new court filing.

Reyes was referring to Sen. Nate Blouin, D-Millcreek, and including a post that Blouin made on the social media platform X on the day the movie “Sound of Freedom” — which was loosely based on Ballard’s story — was released referring to OUR as a “criminal organization” and linked to a story about OUR being under investigation by Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings.

“He has tried to get me impeached. His statement that OUR is criminal is defamatory per se. Would make a good case,” Reyes wrote in the text message.

It was actually another legislator, Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Murray, who proposed impeachment proceeding against Reyes in 2021, before Blouin was in the Legislature. The bill was never formally considered.

Ballard, according to the court document, replied “We will sue him,” and texted his spokesperson that “We need to file suit on this state rep. I don’t know him and never heard of him. Time to shoot back finally.”

Ballard also said they needed to prepare a “campaign” against Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings who spent years investigating OUR and Ballard.

By the time Ballard sent the message, he had already been ousted from OUR after what the organization has said was an independent internal investigation into allegations of misconduct on Ballard’s part.

Blouin said he never heard from Ballard or his attorneys and didn’t find out about Reyes pushing for the lawsuit until he was contacted by the plaintiffs’ attorneys last week.

“I’ve been pretty vocal about my disdain for both Reyes and for Operation Underground Railroad and for Ballard for a number of years now,” Blouin said. “I guess I was surprised that the attorney general of Utah is even thinking about a freshman Democrat. … You would think that he has bigger fish to fry and more important things to be working on than trying to get someone sued for defamation.”

Blouin said learning about their discussions does not change his attitude toward them and reaffirms in his mind “that they’re willing to use their political power and offices and wealth … for nefarious causes.”

Spokespeople for both Reyes and Ballard declined to comment on the latest court filing.

The case in question was brought by Kely Johana Suarez Moya, a Colombian woman who Ballard and OUR had described as a beauty queen and child sex trafficker. In the movie “Sound of Freedom,” a character based on Moya is shown taking children from fake modeling auditions and selling them into sex slavery.

In Ballard’s version of events and those depicted in the movie, he led a sting in Colombia — in which Reyes participated — that rescued dozens of kids and led to the arrest of the traffickers.

Moya’s lawsuit contends she was arrested in a case of mistaken identity and spent 18 months in prison before being released. She has not been convicted of a crime, the suit states. She is suing Ballard and OUR for defamation.

Ballard’s spokesperson accused the lawyers representing Moya — who are also representing multiple women accusing Ballard of sexual misconduct and assault — of trying to extort Ballard and get a big payday for their client.

Ballard’s team also provided a video showing Moya at a meeting where they appeared to be discussing bringing young girls to a party.

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