Ohio’s March 15 primary will essentially decide the Cuyahoga county prosecutor's race. No Republican candidate is running. Incumbent Tim McGinty and his challenger, Michael C. O’Malley, are both Democrats.
McGinty’s website, McGintyForProsecutor.com, is peppered with exclamation points touting his successes since coming into office in 2012. We decided to check out some of the claims McGinty makes about his last four years.
"I formed one of the nation's most successful Rape Kit Task Force to eliminate the backlog of 4,850 rape kits that were untested for decades," McGinty says.
"Our Rape Kit Task Force will solve and prosecute 1,000 forgotten rape cases. Hundreds of serial rapists will finally be indicted. We are almost halfway to our goal of 1,000 rapes prosecuted!"
In 2009, Cleveland police began sending forensic evidence to the Ohio Bureau of Investigation's laboratory in response to news reports that sounded the alarm about thousands of sexual assault kits that never underwent DNA testing. When those DNA profiles match known offenders from a national database, prosecutors can file charges.
But what does McGinty mean by "almost halfway to our goal of 1,000," in terms of rapes prosecuted?
We asked the Cuyahoga Prosecutor’s Office for the numbers, and here’s what they turned up, as of Feb. 9, 2016:
1,424 completed investigations
2,193 active investigations
444 indicted defendants
136 convictions (out of 149 completed cases)
91.3 percent conviction rate
If the goal was to have "1,000 rapes prosecuted," 444 comes pretty close to "almost halfway." But is "indicted" the same as "prosecuted?"
Yes, says Jonathan Witmer-Rich, an associate law professor at Cleveland State University. "A prosecution begins when charges are filed, usually by the prosecutor," Witmer-Rich told PolitiFact Ohio. "That is the beginning of the case. So it would be correct to say that McGinty ‘is prosecuting’ a particular defendant even though they have not gone to trial yet or been convicted. Once charges are filed, the defendant is being prosecuted."
But can McGinty claim responsibility for the initiative to test the county’s rape-kit backlog? Various media sources credit Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for putting out the call, over four years ago, for police departments to clear their evidence rooms of shelved rape kits and send them to the central state lab for DNA testing. This month, DeWine’s office marked the 10,000th sexual assault kit tested.
Jill Del Greco, the public information officer for the Ohio Attorney General, says that McGinty deserves credit.
"A lot more goes into it -- when we get a hit, they can’t necessarily go out and make an arrest," Del Greco says. "Once we obtain the DNA testing results, we return the results to the investigating agency." Witnesses have to be tracked down, she continued, and oftentimes, the victim has to be found again, too, when years have passed since the crime occurred. It’s up to the prosecutors and police departments in each jurisdiction to re-boot these investigations.
McGinty said his office is "almost halfway" to his goal of prosecuting 1,000 rapes as a result of testing a cache of thousands of previously untested rape kits.
As of Feb. 9, 444 defendants had been indicted, which is nearing the halfway point of 500.
A defendant is being prosecuted once charged, so we rate this claim True.
Statistics, provided by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office
Interview with Jonathan Witmer-Rich, associate law professor at Cleveland State University, Feb. 12, 2016
Interview with Jill Del Greco, public information officer, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Feb. 16, 2016
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