O’Neill calls out Stein on rape kit testing, leadership at DOJ

Stein’s claim on rape kits prompted sexual assault kit coordinator to resign

Republican North Carolina attorney general candidate Jim O'Neill appears a campaign rally ahead of the arrival of President Donald Trump Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, in Winston-Salem, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

RALEIGH — A press conference by attorney general candidate Jim O’Neill underscored false claims in an ad which was run by his opponent, Attorney General Josh Stein, as well as Stein’s failure to represent the state in key legal matters.

O’Neill, who has been a prosecutor for around 25 years, says that the N.C. Department of Justice under Stein has lost its way. He used the voter ID amendment as an example of Stein’s office failing to defend the state.

“Regrettably, in North Carolina, this attorney general decided on his own that his opinion mattered more than what the will of North Carolina was,” said O’Neill on the voter ID amendment case. He added that despite the fact voter ID was put on the ballot and overwhelmingly passed by voters, Stein declined to pursue and defend it. O’Neill called Stein’s lack of action “disturbing.”

O’Neill brought up that Stein did “little to nothing” and “stood on the sidelines” while Raleigh and major cities across the state were being looted and destroyed by rioters.

In his four years as attorney general, Stein appears to have sued or entered into suits initiated by other states against the Trump administration dozens of times, yet has refused to defend the state on key legal issues, such as complaints against multiple constitutional amendments, absentee ballot rules, and various election law cases.

Also raised by O’Neill was the issue of the “false commercials” from Stein’s campaign. In particular, one ad regarding the state’s rape kit backlog that Stein inherited from his predecessor, Gov. Roy Cooper. When Stein took over, North Carolina was number one in the country for untested rape kits with over 15,000 sitting on shelves waiting for action. 

Stein’s rape kit ad attempts to blame O’Neill and the district attorney’s office for rape kits going untested in Forsyth County. But, O’Neill argues, sending the kits for testing is the job of law enforcement, in particular, the State Crime Lab, which is under Stein’s control. The ad prompted the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative site coordinator for the N.C. Crime Lab, William “Bill” Hart, Sr., to resign in protest.

“It’s sort of sickening to watch someone who is supposed to be the top prosecutor in the state who obviously has no idea how the rape kit collection process works,” O’Neill said. “Instead of taking responsibility and ownership for his failures at the state lab, he turns around and tries to blame it on local law enforcement and prosecutors.”

Stein has moved on to a second attack on Forsyth County’s district attorney, claiming that the office let a teacher accused of sexual abusing a student enter a plea to just two charges. O’Neill said that Stein left out that the teacher was sentenced to 26 years in prison and this was “another clear example” that Stein “just does not understand how the criminal justice system works.”

O’Neill said that Stein is using his current position as a “steppingstone” and that the attorney general’s office has been “decimated” in the past few years because of Stein’s inability to work alongside the General Assembly. He added that former employees of the NCDOJ have approached him asking for O’Neill to do something to improve the morale at the department.

“Josh Stein has run it off the road and into the ditch,” said O’Neill of the NCDOJ.

During the question and answer portion of the call, North State Journal asked if O’Neill was aware of Stein granting a Dogwood Award to left-leaning protester Peter Gilbert.

The Dogwood Award is an award given to North Carolina citizens who are “dedicated to keeping people safe, healthy, and happy in their communities.” The award was created by Stein in 2017.

According to the press release, Gilbert was given the award for his work with an organization called Legal Aid.  The Civitas Institute, a right-leaning think tank, notes that Gilbert is tied to a number of far-left groups and that Legal Aid receives “substantial financial support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, perhaps North Carolina’s largest contributor to left-wing causes.”

In 2017, Gilbert was involved in the toppling of a Confederate statue commemorating the war dead in Durham. Gilbert was among nine protesters associated with the Communist Workers World Party who were arrested in connection with the statue incident.

About A.P. Dillon 325 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_