During a sting operation in Mexico in 2016
September 19, 2023 | 5:55 p.m. ET
Paul Hutchinson – Executive Producer at The sound of freedoma film loosely based on anti-trafficking expert Tim Ballard—admitted to touching the breasts of a possible minor trafficking victim during a 2016 sting operation in Mexico.
At the time, Hutchinson worked with Operation Underground Railroad (or OUR), an anti-trafficking group Ballard founded in 2013. a VICE reportfootage of Hutchinson in the act was captured by cameramen working with OUR on a documentary and subsequent television series entitled Abolitionists. The footage was then reviewed by Investigator Bryan Purdy of the Davis County District Attorney’s Office, who wrote detailed descriptions of it as part of the FBI’s investigation into Ballard and OUR, which closed earlier this year without any charges being filed.
Documents obtained through a public records request by VICE News contain descriptions showing Hutchinson and OUR believed the trafficking victim was 16 at the time. In another description of the video, Hutchinson expressed concern to Matt Osborne — now OUR president and chief operating officer — about the possibility that he could be prosecuted by Mexican authorities for his actions in the incident.
When contacted by VICE, Hutchinson did not reject the investigator’s account of his actions or deny touching the trafficking victim’s bare breasts. However, he claimed to have an affidavit from the Mexican Federal Police that the victim was over 18 years old. However, according to VICE, Hutchinson did not respond to “multiple requests” for the document.
“There’s a lot to the story, a very dangerous situation, and I’m happy to let the world know the details when the time is right,” Hutchinson wrote in an email to VICE. “Every operator that was present stands behind me in how I responded to the situation. I have no objections to the way I conducted myself undercover. You will not find trafficked children in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton. We had to go to the most dangerous places on the planet to find children. All my undercover work was done honestly and with honor.”
While there is no evidence that Hutchinson acted in any capacity other than identifying and detecting traffickers, the OUR’s approach of requiring minors during operations rather than finding and rescuing minor victims who were already trafficked was questioned by experts for creating situations like this. In Hutchinson’s case, he posed as a “sex tourist” and solicited younger girls from the businessman.
Read the full VICE report here.
As for Ballard, he resigned from OUR at the beginning of this year after internal investigation to allegations of sexual abuse. IN declarationBallard dismissed the allegations as “baseless inventions”.
Hutchinson — who claims on LinkedIn to be an “early investor” in The sound of freedom — and Ballard aren’t the only people associated with the film to engage in actions that contradict its message. Fabian Marta, who also helped finance the film, was arrested this summer for kidnapping children.