Tim Ballard, whose efforts to combat child sex trafficking were the basis for the surprise summer hit "Sound of Freedom," reportedly stepped away from his watchdog organization in June after an internal investigation into sexual misconduct allegations brought by seven women, according to sources who spoke with Vice.
Ballard, who was portrayed by Jim Caviezel in “Sound of Freedom,” has denied any wrongdoing and blames "evil pedophiles" for attempting to destroy his "good name." His character in the film is characterized as a hero and former U.S. government agent whose mission is to rescue children from sex traffickers in Colombia.
According to Vice, sources alleged that Ballard suggested women pretend to be his “wife” during the course of overseas undercover missions aimed at rescuing sex-trafficking victims. The women alleged that Ballard coerced women into sharing a bed or showering with him in order to fool traffickers. One woman said he sent her a photo of himself in his underwear, plastered with fake tattoos, and another alleged that he pressed her on “how far she was willing to go” to save the children.
A spokesperson for the watchdog group, Operation Underground Railroad, told the outlet, “O.U.R. is dedicated to combatting sexual abuse, and does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination by anyone in its organization.” The spokesperson also confirmed that Ballad resigned from O.U.R. on June 22.
“O.U.R. retained an independent law firm to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all relevant allegations, and O.U.R. continues to assess and improve the governance of the organization and protocols for its operations,” the spokesperson continued to the outlet. “O.U.R. is confident in its future as the leading organization committed to combatting sex trafficking and saving children who have been captured and sold into slavery.”
Vice said its sources corroborated an anonymous letter accusing Ballard of sexual harassment that began circulating in the Utah philanthropic community earlier this year.
“Several weeks ago, an OUR employee who accompanied Tim on an undercover operation filed a sexual harassment complaint against him with OUR’s HR department,” the letter, which Vice said was sent this summer to donors to anti-trafficking causes, reads. “This resulted in an extensive internal investigation into Tim and his individual operational tactics and led to more women speaking up as part of the investigation process.
“It was ultimately revealed through disturbingly specific and parallel accounts, that Tim has been deceitfully and extensively grooming and manipulating multiple women for the past few years with the ultimate intent of coercing them to participate in sexual acts with him, under the premise of going where it takes and doing ‘whatever it takes’ to save a child.”
The letter was published in full Sunday by journalist Lynn Kenneth Packer, the author of "Lying for the Lord — The Paul H. Dunn Stories."
Ballard. who may be gearing up for a Senate run. said in a statement to The Times, “It has been alleged that an LDS church spokesperson issued a statement about me through a tabloid that is often hostile to people of faith. My church has not publicly verified the statement’s authenticity. We are also highly suspicious about the timing of such a statement given its close proximity to Mitt Romney’s announcement that he is retiring, my own public comments about my prayers about future plans, and the fact that the LDS church does not engage in political activity.
“Evil pedophiles will stop at nothing,” Ballard's statement continued. “They continue to lie and attempt to destroy my good name and defame my character … and they will never stop.
“Rescuing kids and fighting child trafficking is an ugly and dark business, especially when — as the result of my work for more than 20 years — we continue to expose members of the powerful, well-funded child trafficking cartels.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.