Lawsuit Claims Travis County District Attorney’s Office Defamed Sexual Assault Survivor

Sep 12, 2019

A lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin on Wednesday claims  Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore and an employee in her office lied to the public about a sexual assault victim.

According to the lawsuit, in 2018, Emily Borchardt was a senior at the University of Texas when she was abducted and sexually assaulted by multiple people over a period of 12 hours. Borchardt reported the assault to the Austin Police Department.

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Borchardt’s lawyers allege that during the handling of her case, First Assistant District Attorney Mindy Montford made “unethical” and “false” statements about the case and Borchardt, including that Borchardt said she had consensual sex with one of the men. Some of these statements were recorded in a call to a family friend.

“The idea that a DA’s Office would publicly discuss a rape victim I think is itself appalling,” said Elizabeth Myers, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiff. “The realization that the DA and the First Assistant are actively spreading false information about a victim is almost inconceivable."

In an emailed statement, Moore and Montford wrote that they disagreed strongly with the allegations in the lawsuit.

"I did not know about the specific phone conversation until it was brought to my attention months later by a news media outlet that the call had been recorded and provided to the media without our knowledge or consent," wrote Moore in an emailed statement. "I reviewed the transcription of the call and believe the allegations of impropriety are unfounded."

Montford said she stands by the decisions made in this case.

"Prosecutors have an ethical duty and a responsibility to ensure that they are not seeking a conviction without sufficient evidence to meet this burden," Montford wrote in an emailed statement. "We make these difficult decisions every day based upon our courtroom experience and training as prosecutors."

This is not the first time the District Attorney’s Office has come under fire for its handling of sexual assault cases. Last year, three women sued the office and other agencies alleging repeated mishandling of sexual assault cases. Moore resigned in July from her appointment to a state sexual assault task force, writing that her appointment had become a distraction.