RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — On Tuesday, the U.S. 4th Circuit of Appeals has blocked the Wake County District Attorney’s Office from taking further action in filing criminal charges against Atty Gen. Josh Stein (D).
The ruling comes after a Wake County grand jury returned a presentment Monday regarding a 2020 campaign ad of Stein’s.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the District Attorney’s Office cannot proceed while the case over the constitutionality of the ad continues at the federal level.
The order halts any further action in the criminal investigation until the federal courts can determine if North carolina’s law criminalizing false statements about a candidate violates the First Amendment.
The campaign ad air in Sept. 2020, and is commonly known as the “Survivor” ad. In the ad, a sexual assault victim and North Carolina Department of Justice employee made the following statement:
“As a survivor of sexual assault that means a lot to me and when I learned that Jim O’Neill left 1,500 rape kits [sitting] on a shelf leaving rapists on the street, I had to speak out.”
A state law makes it a class 2 misdemeanor for anyone to publish derogatory reports or false information about a candidate in a primary or general election with the intent to affect the chances for a candidate’s nomination or election.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations began investigating in 2020 after Attorney General candidate and current Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill filed a complaint.
Stein and his campaign employees sought a preliminary injunction against the Wake County district attorney, which was denied.
The ruling stated, “We conclude plaintiffs have satisfied the demanding standard for obtaining an injunction pending appeal.”
However, the ruling said the motion to expedite the appeal was partly granted. The appeal will be argued in December.