Woman featured in Josh Stein attack ad works for Stein's department
In the ad, a sexual assault survivor blasts Attorney General Josh Stein's opponent but doesn't mention her job with the state Department of Justice.Posted — Updated
Juliette Grimmett is a temporary contract employee at the State Crime Lab, working as a sexual assault victim policy strategist. The position is funded by a grant, and she makes about $32 an hour, the Attorney General’s Office confirmed this week.
None of this is disclosed in an attack ad Stein’s campaign has run against Jim O’Neill, Forsyth County’s district attorney and Stein’s Republican opponent in the attorney general’s race.
WRAL News does not typically identify sexual assault victims, but Grimmett has gone public before as part of her advocacy work. She did not return messages seeking comment.
The first part of the ad, praising Stein for his work on sexual assault and cutting down a backlog in rape kit tests, is fine, Hart said.
“Josh has worked on this along with a lot of other people,” he said. “But when the ad pointed to Jim O’Neill and said he left 1,500 kits on the shelves, that’s just not true.”
Hart, a former assistant district attorney in Wake County, said district attorneys don’t have that sort of control over rape kits stored by law enforcement departments. There are a number of reasons kits go untested, including some victims who don’t want their cases to proceed.
In the ad, Grimmett says that, when she heard O’Neill “left 1,500 rape kits sitting on a shelf, leaving rapists on the streets, I had to speak out.”
In a statement, the O’Neill campaign commended Hart for resigning and called the ad’s key accusation “a bold-faced lie.”
“The people of North Carolina deserve better than having a career politician as their attorney general who doesn’t know how the criminal justice system works,” O’Neill said in the statement. “It’s time for Stein to come clean with the people of North Carolina and apologize for lying to us.”
The O’Neill campaign also sent Grimmett a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that she denounce the commercial. An attorney for Stein's campaign committee responded, telling the O'Neill campaign it was wrong to “reach out directly to a sexual assault survivor in an effort to intimidate her (without even copying the committee).”
That letter goes on to note O’Neill’s own comments from the campaign trail about rape kits and his promise to clear out the backlog as attorney general.
“He clearly understands that leadership is required to focus law enforcement and policymakers on this important task – leadership that Attorney General Stein has provided throughout his term,” the letter, from attorney Pressly Millen, states.
Millen's letter goes on to say O’Neill could have pressed local law enforcement to process more kits and sought grant funding to cover test costs "as Attorney General Stein did statewide.”
As for the ad, it’s no longer running. Stein campaign spokesman Eric Stern said it was replaced with another spot in "the normal course of the campaign."
Asked why the campaign didn’t disclose that the ad’s lone speaker works for an agency Stein oversees, Stern said Grimmett came to the state Department of Justice “precisely because she supports Attorney General Stein's efforts to eliminate the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.”
“She spoke out in the ad – of her own volition and on her own private time – for the same reason,” Stern said in an email. “To imply anything improper and for her efforts and personal sacrifice to be met with anything but admiration is offensive.”
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