North Carolina Attorney General Fights Campaign Advertising Investigation

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s campaign committee on Wednesday asked a federal court to block enforcement of a rarely used anti-defamation law as the committee faces possible criminal prosecution for a political advertisement for Stein’s latest career.

Under fire for TV ad Addressing his 2020 Republican challenger, the Stein campaign has filed a motion asking the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to grant a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law.

The law, which dates back to at least 1931, makes it illegal to deliberately spread a false “derogatory report” that could harm a candidate’s chances of election. The campaign’s motion comes as a Wake County district attorney prepares to form a grand jury in the case.

The motion called for the district attorney to be blocked from enforcing what the campaign called “an overly broad and poorly designed criminal defamation law” while the court assesses whether it violates the First Amendment right to free speech. .

Caught between his political views and his duty to uphold state law, the Democratic attorney general and potential 2024 gubernatorial candidate finds himself fighting the enforcement of a criminal law he is tasked with upholding, a law that a former political opponent has accused of violating your own campaign.

Stein’s 2020 Republican rival, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, cited the law in a complaint to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, prompting the North Carolina district attorney’s office to Wake County, Lorrin Freeman, to investigate even after the board of elections dropped the case against Stein. campaign committee in 2021.

“The Wake County, North Carolina, District Attorney is threatening to enforce a criminal defamation law in a way that restricts public debate and undermines the integrity of the democratic process in North Carolina,” campaign counsel wrote. Stein, Pressley Millen.

O’Neill’s campaign has argued that Stein’s commercial, which accused the Republican of passing over a thousand untested rape kits, was defamatory because police, not prosecutors, are responsible for testing rape kits.

The misdemeanor for breaking the law carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail with fines, but someone with a clean criminal record would avoid serving time if convicted.

Stein also filed an emergency motion Wednesday asking the appeals court to decide the case before Friday “because grand jury proceedings are imminent.”

His latest legal actions follow US District Judge Catherine Eagles. monday of refusal to set aside the law while Stein’s campaign and other plaintiffs seek to nullify the statute.

Eagles asserts that the law is constitutionally permissible because it “criminalizes false defamatory speech about public officials made with actual malice” and allows enough “breathing room” for protected speech.


Hannah Schoenbaum is a staff member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues. Follow her on Twitter at


Conversations are the opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of conduct. The Star does not endorse these views.

Leave a Comment