For Immediate Release: Wednesday, August 10, 2022


(RALEIGH) The Josh Stein for Attorney General committee, campaign ad maker Ralston Lapp Guinn Media Group, and a campaign volunteer who is a survivor of sexual assault today filed a notice of appeal in their case to strike down an outdated and unconstitutional North Carolina statute, North Carolina General Statute § 163-274(a)(9). The Stein campaign and other plaintiffs continue to believe that this statute is unconstitutional and must be struck down due to its potential impacts on free speech.

“The vagueness and unclear use of terms in this statute plus its chilling effect on political free speech by candidates would, in my opinion, violate 1st Amendment guarantees,” said former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr. “No wonder it has never been used before and only now is having to be challenged.”

The original case was brought after Jim O’Neill, an unsuccessful candidate for attorney general in 2020, filed a complaint over an ad the Stein campaign ran, leading to a lengthy investigation by the Wake County District Attorney.

“This situation continues to be bizarre,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “The ad was true – O’Neill failed to lead on testing the old rape kits in Forsyth County. And the voters deserved to be informed about the differences between how my opponent and I handled this critical public safety issue, particularly given the many falsehoods he said about my work on ending the backlog.

“As always, I remain focused doing the actual work of getting these old sexual assault kits tested - just last week Durham District Attorney Deberry announced two new convictions related to charges of rape, burglary, and kidnapping as a result of testing these older kits. Thanks to my team’s hard work, DNA is breathing new life into cold cases all across our state, and we are seeing arrests and convictions as a result. I am confident that this statute will ultimately be struck down and we will move forward.”

More Information:

- Professor Michael Gerhardt’s declaration, which states that this law is clearly unconstitutional. Professor Gerhardt is a UNC School of Law constitutional law expert.

- A timeline of events, including a thorough review of AG Stein’s work to test kits and O’Neill’s false stories.

- A fact sheet that overviews the statute, O’Neill’s false stories, and AG Stein’s record on getting justice for victims of sexual assault.

- View today’s filings here, here, and here.