Written by GARY D. ROBERTSON
A North Carolina prosecutor said Thursday that campaign-related charges won’t be pursued further against Attorney General Josh Stein or his aides, one day after an appeals court ruled the political libel law her office was seeking to enforce is most likely unconstitutional.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said that the ongoing investigation and prosecution of potential misdemeanor violations related to a 2020 ad from Stein’s campaign has been closed.
A senior assistant prosecutor in Freeman’s office had been investigating allegations whether the commercial criticizing Stein’s Republican challenger at the time broke a 1931 law that makes certain political speech unlawful. When it appeared last summer that Freeman’s office could soon seek indictments, Stein’s campaign and others sued in federal court to stop the effort and asked that the law be declared unconstitutional.
In August, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, blocked enforcement of the law while an appeal was heard. On Wednesday, the same appeal panel vacated a trial judge’s ruling that had refused to order Freeman to stop using the law to prosecute anyone over the disputed commercial.
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 decision by Freeman — the local prosecutor for North Carolina’s largest county — ultimately could make the Stein lawsuit moot. And Stein, who announced