Utah attorney general drops reelection bid amid scrutiny about his ties to a sexual assault suspect

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, facing scrutiny for his decadelong friendship with the embattled founder of an anti-child-trafficking organization, announced Friday he will not seek reelection in 2024.

The Republican had previously announced in September that he would seek a fourth term. Reyes is now backtracking his decision to run again and has pledged to dedicate his final year in office to investigating the sex abuse claims against his friend, Tim Ballard.

Ballard, the now-ousted founder of nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad, has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women and is the subject of a criminal investigation. His organization rose to prominence last summer as a focal point of the film “Sound of Freedom,” which was widely praised by conservative moviegoers.

A bipartisan group of more than two dozen Utah state lawmakers initiated an audit of Reyes’ office last month, calling into question his administrative practices, spending and close ties to Ballard.

In a video announcement, Reyes said he sat down with each person who had come forward with accusations to tell them that he believed them and was heartbroken for the trauma they had endured.

“I apologized to each of them that my past friendship with Tim Ballard and past association with OUR contributed to an environment that made them feel powerless and without a voice for so many years,” he said. "I cannot give them back those voiceless years, but I intend on spending my last year in office working together with these survivors and any others who come forward so that their voices are heard."

Reyes said he plans to integrate them into a task force to support other sex abuse survivors and protect others from the same fate.

Hannah Schoenbaum, The Associated Press