Woman claims Travis Co. DA, assistant DA conspired, lied about her after reported sexual assault

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A woman has filed a lawsuit against Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore and First Assistant District Attorney Melinda Montford, claiming that the two conspired together to say that her alleged sexual assault was consensual.

KXAN reached out to the DA’s Office and the office released statements from both Moore and Montford on Thursday, which can be found below.

In the lawsuit, the victim, Emily Borchardt, says she was abducted, strangled and repeatedly raped by three men, over a 12-hour period, in January 2018. She was a senior honors student at the University of Texas at the time. The alleged assault happened the weekend before she was to begin her last semester.

Immediately following the assault, Borchardt says that she reported the crime to the Austin Police Department and cooperated with law enforcement to make sure her assailants were arrested — men who, according to the lawsuit, APD and the DA’s office knew by name.

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Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore (KXAN)

The lawsuit says that in APD’s Police File, it indicates repeatedly –at least 26 times — that Borchardt feared for her life, tried to escape and was told by her abductors that they had killed people before.

Borchardt’s attorneys say that nowhere in the police file does it ever indicate that the sex was consensual.

Then, according to the lawsuit, despite physical evidence — including DNA evidence identifying the man who reportedly told Borchardt he’d killed before — the DA’s Office declined on two separate occasions to prosecute for any of the sexual assaults.

After the second time, Borchardt’s attorneys say, she became a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit, which aimed to address the DA’s office’s “pattern of failing to properly investigate and prosecute reported sexual assaults that are perpetrated upon women.”

According to the lawsuit, the class-action lawsuit that Borchardt entered “put tremendous pressure on the DA’s Office… namely DA Moore and ADA Montford.”

Borchardt’s attorneys say that the reason Moore and Montford were threatened by the class-action lawsuit was because it put in jeopardy both Moore’s re-election campaign and Montford’s service to Moore.

MORE: Travis Co. DA resigns from sex assault survivor’s task force

The lawsuit states that a little over a month after Borchardt joined the class-action lawsuit, Montford returned a three-week-old message from a family friend of Borchardt’s — a conversation which attorneys say was recorded.

The family friend says that on the call, Montford made several malicious and false claims about Borchardt, including that she’d allegedly told police that sex with one of the men had been consensual and that Montford implied that further revelations about Borchardt would come to light if she remained in the class-action lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, in March 2019, Moore then reviewed and publicly consented to Montford’s misconduct. Attorneys say that after a transcript of the call was published by the press, Moore said in a news article that “allegations of impropriety [concerning the call transcript] are unfounded.”

Overall, the lawsuit claims that:

  • Moore and Montford conspired to violate Borchardt’s constitutional rights and protections (her rights being that she was involved in a class-action lawsuit)
  • Montford shared intimate (and false) information about the case to a third party (the family friend)
  • By Montford saying that Borchardt was lying about the sex being consensual, it was implied that Borchardt had committed a criminal offense
  • Moore then endorsed the false information as true

Borchardt’s attorneys say Moore and Montford did all of this to preserve their own professional and political ambitions and because of their dislike for the women pursuing the class-action lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Borchardt is seeking reimbursement for damages and court costs, in addition to holding Moore and Montford liable for defamation.

Borchardt and her attorneys are demanding a trial by jury.

In a statement on Thursday, Assistant DA Montford writes:

“I have devoted over 20 years of my professional career to being a fierce advocate for crime victims. I have handled numerous sexual assault and other violent offenses throughout my years as a prosecutor. I have lived in Austin for over 40 years, and it has been my greatest honor to serve in a position where I am able to play a role in the public safety of our community. I would not have chosen a career as a prosecutor if I did not have the passion to fight for justice for victims of violent crime.

I was contacted last year by my former sister-in-law, my son’s Aunt, about a case that was declined for prosecution. I returned the call and believed that she was calling on behalf of the complainant and her family who she said were her neighbors. I later learned from the media that the phone call had been recorded without my knowledge or consent and had been shared with the media. It is common for our office to be contacted by complainants and their representatives to discuss the reasons we may not be able to proceed with a criminal case. We strive to provide them with enough legal reasoning so that they may have a better understanding of our duties as prosecutors and why the case cannot move forward with prosecution.

The foundation of our criminal justice system is based upon the presumption that every individual accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors have an ethical duty and a responsibility to ensure that they are not seeking a conviction without sufficient evidence to meet this burden. We make these difficult decisions every day based upon our courtroom experience and training as prosecutors. These decisions must be made without personal bias or emotion. Our judgment must be based upon the law and the relevant facts. It is for these reasons that I continue to stand by the decision that was made in this case.”

On Thursday evening, DA Moore released her own statement, saying:

“We strongly disagree with the allegations in the lawsuit that was filed yesterday. Our office was contacted in September of last year on behalf of a sexual assault complainant, and my First Assistant, Mindy Montford, responded to the call to provide information that she believed would be helpful to explain why the complainant’s case could not move forward with prosecution. It is not uncommon for our Office to receive such requests, and we strive to provide enough information and legal reasoning so that individuals may have a better understanding of why a case may not move forward with prosecution. 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. I reviewed the transcription of the call and believe the allegations of impropriety are unfounded.

We exercise prosecutorial discretion based upon the evidence in each case, using our best judgment from our years of experience. We must test that evidence against Texas law, which requires that we prove each element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. And we adhere to an ethical responsibility not to proceed unless there is probable cause, sufficient admissible evidence to sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, and we believe that justice is served by prosecuting. Prosecutors owe a duty to no individual client–we have a duty to uphold the law and seek justice, which means we must strive to see that the victim, the accused, and society as a whole is served by our faithfulness to the Constitution. This means that some cases cannot be brought to trial. This determination is not one that we make lightly, but only after careful consideration of all the facts.

Since I took office in 2017, our prosecutors have tried over 206 criminal cases to Travis County juries, 17 of which involved sexual assault offense with adult victims. This does not include the cases with child victims of sexual assault. We have obtained guilty pleas or findings of guilt in 111 cases involving adult sexual assault allegations. We are proud of the work this Office does on behalf of sexual assault survivors and continue to strive to seek justice on behalf of all victims.”

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