Wake County DA closes investigation into AG Stein over campaign ads

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — The Wake County district attorney is closing her investigation into Attorney General Josh Stein over campaign ads.

District Attorney Lorrin Freeman was attempting to criminally charge Stein for violating a more than 90-year-old law that says a person can’t knowingly make false statements against their political opponent.

A statement released by Freeman also said the ruling prevents her office from moving forward given that there is two-year statute of limitations for such a misdemeanor.

“Understanding that the case was one of intense public interest, it has been the assigned prosecutor’s intent to exercise due diligence and to evaluate the evidence and apply the law without partiality from the beginning of this matter,” Freeman said. “As prosecutors, we respect the role of the court in determining the constitutionality of a duly enacted state law.”

The case is tied to 2020 campaign ads against Stein’s Republican opponent, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill.

O’Neill’s complaint cited the law while demanding that the board investigate a political ad that accused the Republican of letting more than a thousand rape kits go untested. O’Neill said the ad was false because police agencies, not prosecutors, are responsible for testing the kits.

Stein and his allies have said the ad is truthful and was designed to counter false statements that O’Neill made during the campaign that Stein had failed to act on more than 15,000 untested rape kits since becoming attorney general in 2017.

On Thursday, the court of appeals unanimously granted the preliminary injunction sought by Stein.

Citing the ad’s subject, Freeman’s statement said she hoped that efforts would continue to reduce backlogs for the testing of sexual assault kits following a 2019 state law that was designed to eliminate that inventory, adding that delays continue.

“It would be my hope that the General Assembly and the Attorney General would take steps to fix these delays so that the promises of the (2019 law) become a reality,” Freeman said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(WATCH BELOW: North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announces campaign for governor)