Who should be investigating Tim Ballard? Utah Gov. Cox and a former federal judge disagree.

The attorney general’s office, with a close relationship to Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) and founder Tim Ballard and a history of significant donations from the organization, is conducting an investigation into sexual assault allegations against Ballard. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who has had a long-standing friendship with Ballard and ties to OUR, announced earlier this month that his office would be leading the probe into the accusations.

While Governor Spencer Cox expressed confidence in the professionalism and ethical standards of the attorney general’s office, University of Utah law professor and former federal judge, Paul Cassell, raised concerns about the conflict of interest posed by the close ties between the attorney general and Ballard. Cassell suggested that decisions related to the criminal charges against Ballard should be made by entities outside of the office, due to the pervasive conflict of interest.

The investigation was prompted by multiple civil lawsuits and at least one other criminal investigation regarding allegations that Ballard sexually assaulted women who had volunteered for OUR child rescue operations.

Reyes’ office is also under scrutiny for accepting nearly $1 million in donations from OUR and the involvement of several of his associates with the organization. There are calls for the investigation to be handled by an independent entity, such as a panel of district court judges, to ensure impartiality and public confidence.

In response to these concerns, the attorney general’s office emphasized its confidence in the professionalism and ethics of the investigators involved in the case. However, the women who have accused Ballard of sexual assault and are suing him and OUR expressed skepticism about the impartiality of the investigation given the close association between the attorney general’s office and the organization.

The evolving situation has raised questions about ethical considerations, potential conflict of interest, and the need for an independent review of the case. The outcome of this investigation will likely set an important precedent for similar cases involving close relationships between law enforcement agencies and the entities they are tasked with investigating.

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