UT alumna sues Travis County district attorney, assistant for defamation over rape case

Lauren Girgis

A UT alumna filed a class action lawsuit against two employees of the Travis County District Attorney’s office last week, claiming a district attorney and her assistant lied to the public about her sexual assault.

According to the lawsuit, Emily Borchardt was abducted, strangled and repeatedly raped over a period of more than 12 hours during her senior year in January 2018. After escaping, the lawsuit says, Borchardt reported the sexual assaults to the Austin Police Department and submitted a rape kit examination. No portion of the APD police file said Borchardt admitted consent to any sexual act, according to the lawsuit.

 According to the lawsuit, district attorney Margaret Moore and assistant district attorney Melinda Montford, who were prosecuting the sexual assaults on behalf of Borchardt, made defamatory statements and violated Borchardt’s civil rights. In a phone call that was recorded by her family friend, Montford said, “(Borchardt) definitely says it was consensual,” according to the lawsuit.

 “The investigative records contained within the APD’s Police File, which ADA Montford had access to and even implies that she studied just before her improper call to the Third Party, contradict all of these statements,” the lawsuit said. “(Borchardt) did not consent, and she never said she did.”

Borchardt is also a member of a class action lawsuit filed against the City of Austin, Travis County and other local officials last year, which claims the DA’s office has failed to properly investigate sexual assaults against women.

According to a joint statement from the DA’s office, Montford was not aware the phone call she made to her former sister-in-law had been secretly recorded and publicized. 

“It is common for the DA’s Office to be contacted by complainants and other representatives to discuss the reasons why a criminal case cannot be prosecuted,” the statement said. “It is not uncommon to respond to those inquiries as forthrightly as possible. At no time did Montford lie or intentionally make false representations about this case during the (phone) conversation.”

According to the statement, the DA’s Office reviewed the police file and concluded the sexual assault complaint was legally insufficient for prosecution under Texas law.

“Based upon the complete police investigation of the facts of this particular case, we could not proceed with a criminal case and still be true to our duty as prosecutors,” the statement said. 

According to the lawsuit, Montford shared false information regarding Borchardt’s case with a member of the public, and Moore endorsed her statements as true. 

“That DA Moore, who is responsible for training and overseeing all prosecutors under her purview, publicly affirmed ADA Montford’s actions is shocking because the call transcript contains blatant ethical misconduct, privacy violations and per se defamatory statements,” the lawsuit said.

Borchardt is requesting financial compensation or a judgment finding Montford and Moore individually liable for defamation, which also entitles Borchardt to financial compensation, according to the lawsuit. 

“The DA’s office still hasn’t even acknowledged they’ve done anything wrong, maintaining that nothing improper was done,” said Elizabeth Myers, one of the attorneys representing Borchardt. “That has to change.”