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Tuesday AM headlines: Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard sued for sexual assault

A judge's gavel.
Wesley Tingey

Five women sue Operation Underground Railroad founder for sexual assault

Five women are suing Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard for sexual assault and fraudulent statements about a “couples ruse” to coerce them into sexual contact.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Salt Lake City, says Ballard engaged in coerced sexual contact in the name of rescuing trafficked children. He allegedly pressured undercover operatives who posed as his wife on rescue missions as well as asked women to “practice” the couples ruse before missions.

When these women, many of whom are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, questioned the legitimacy of these tactics, he told them it was okay because he believed he was to become a future president of the church and of the U.S.

While the lawsuit is primarily focused on Ballard’s alleged actions, Operation Underground Railroad, the SPEAR Fund and several other corporations and individuals are also named as defendants in the suit. The suit claims the couples rule was an “institutional doctrine” of Operation Underground Railroad and its affiliated companies and that they knew the sexual misconduct was happening.

Ballard has previously denied any sexual misconduct allegations. According to Operation Underground Railroad, he resigned following an independent investigation.

U of U Health receives $17.5 million for infectious disease outbreak response

The University of Utah is being given $17.5 million by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to strengthen infectious disease outbreak responses in the Mountain West.

U of U Health researchers are reportedly leading efforts in "disease forecasting,” which offers data and tools regarding public health threats in the region.

Their new center, or ForeSITE (Forecasting and Surveillance of Infectious Threats and Pandemics), is meant to protect communities from novel infectious diseases and existing threats. It’s one of 13 to work with the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics to establish an outbreak response network.

Health officials say they can improve modeling systems and integrate them into day-to-day use in individual health care systems, which can help customize responses to meet the needs of different communities.

Duck is a general reporter and weekend announcer at UPR, and is studying broadcast journalism and disability studies at USU. They grew up in northern Colorado before moving to Logan in 2018, so the Rocky Mountain life is all they know. Free time is generally spent with their dog, Monty, listening to podcasts, reading or wishing they could be outside more.