Politifact Says Mike DeWine's Attack Ad on Richard Cordray's Untested Rape Kits is Misleading


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Campaigns for the November elections are starting to heat up, and after reporting that both gubernatorial candidates, Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray were both running positive campaigns, DeWine recently dropped a television ad accusing Cordray of letting thousands of rape kits go untested.

"While Richard Cordray was Attorney General, 12,000 rape kits like Allyssa's were left untested," said DeWine’s TV ad narrated by rape survivor Allyssa Allison. "Cordray's failure left serial rapists free to strike again. Then Mike DeWine became attorney general. He tested all 12,000 rape kits. Now hundreds of rapists are behind bars."

The "Snopes for political statements" website Politifact released their official fact-check on DeWine's claims, and the results were that his accusations are only half-true. While DeWine places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Cordray, Politifact declares that he is not the sole responsible party for the backlog. Local police departments played a factor, and the site also notes that the ad fails to recognize that Cordray began to address the backlog as it drew more attention in the summer of 2010, when he had little time left in office.

The ad claims that while Cordray was attorney general, 12,000 rape kits were left untested. "They were not sitting around his office," Poltifact author Amy Sherman writes. "That number reflects those that were sent in by police departments across the state once DeWine took over."

The backlog of untested rape kits was an overwhelming issue in a multitude of states when Cordray first took office as attorney general in 2009, because the value of rape kit testing had not yet been fully understood, and adequate resources and funding had not been allocated. An unfortunate reality is that the national backlog is still horrendously behind schedule.

During the summer of Cordray's last term as attorney general, Cleveland Police said they had found in their possession more than 6,000 rape kits going back to 1993, some of which had already been tested. By mid 2011, Cleveland began submitting untested kits in small batches to the state for testing.

According to Sherman, "While Cordray was attorney general, Ohio — like much of the country — had no consistent testing policy. Each law enforcement agency decided whether and how to test rape kits, which could be done at local labs or sent to the state. Cleveland police decided whether to test kits on a case by case basis."

Later that year, Cordray called for lawmakers, law enforcement officials and victim advocates to study best practices for testing and develop a statewide protocol. This lead to the formation of the Ohio Sexual Assault Kit Testing Commission and Cordray announced that the state would receive six new DNA-testing robots to speed up testing.

Cordray then lost to DeWine and was no longer serving as attorney general.

After DeWine took office in January 2011, he restarted the rape kit test commission after the Cleveland Heights police department misplaced evidence tied to Anthony Sowell, a serial killer and rapist.

DeWine absolutely deserves credit for tackling the backlog, but he didn't do so alone. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty's office worked with Cleveland police to inventory rape kits, which resulted in identifying thousands of untested rape kits that were submitted to the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation in 2014.

Just as Cordray wasn't the exclusive cause of the backlog, DeWine was not the sole reason the backlog was addressed.

In a counter ad from Cordray's campaign, Shelby County Sheriff and republican John Lenhart is shown declaring that Cordray put the technology in place and "fixed" the backlog that had stretched for decades. While Cordray did begin the process of addressing the problem, he was not in office to truly "fix" it.

The unfortunate reality is that local law enforcement agencies are still causing an issue, as Cleveland police failed to send hundreds of rape kits for testing over the course of three years, directly violating a 2015 Ohio law requiring kits to be sent in within 30-days of testing.

The final word from Politifact is that "The ad is on firmer ground when it gives credit to DeWine for his efforts to clear out the backlog. But it omits that it took him several years to do it. The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important context."

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