i9 Fact Checker: Ad uses sex case involving Transgender woman to attack Iowa Attorney General

Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - An attack ad is arguing Tom Miller (D) is making the state less safe after his more than 37 years as Iowa’s Attorney General. This ad uses one case involving sexual crimes committed by a transgender woman.

Source: Bird for Iowa

Analysis: According to Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board documents, Bird for Iowa is the organization for Brenna Bird’s (R) campaign. She is running to become Iowa’s Attorney General against Tom Miller.

Bird, then Breena Findley, lost to Miller for the same position in 2010. She is currently the County Attorney for Guthrie County and previously served as counsel to Governor Terry Branstad (R).

Claim #1: A convicted child molester allowed free by Tom Miller because the man had a sex change. Miller claimed the predator was no longer a threat because he was no longer a man. Miller was wrong. More victims more tragedy.

Analysis: According to court documents, Joseph Matthew Smith was charged with three Lascivious Act with a Child - Fondle or Touch charges in 2013. Prosecutors said he engaged in oral sex with a 10-year-old at Midwest Christian Services when he was about 16-years-old.

As part of a plea deal with the Buena Vista County Attorney, court documents show Smith was sentenced to up to 10 years in the Department of Corrections. He also was given a $1,000 fine with a 35% surcharge and would have his name on the Sex Offender Registry for 20 years.

In return, two other Lascivious Act with a Child - Fondle or Touch charges were dropped. Smith, who was younger than 18, was also put on probation for three years in March 2014. Court documents show his probation was revoked in December 2015.

The Buena Vista County Attorney, not the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, had jurisdiction over the case.

Around his release date from prison, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office became involved in June 2018. Court documents show an assistant attorney asked a judge to commit Joseph Smith to the custody of the Department of Human Services because he had a mental abnormality, which made him likely to offend again.

While in prison, prosecutors said Smith refused sex offender treatment, was disciplined for sexual misconduct multiple times and had a notebook with images of children from magazines for sexual glorification. Court documents also listed multiple other times Smith was charged with a sex crime.

Both the Des Moines Register and the Storm Lake Times reported Smith began identifying as a woman named Josie in 2017. A former clinical director for a civil commitment unit told the Register it becomes more difficult to convince a judge a person will re-offend when a person has lower testosterone levels, which affect a person’s sex drive.

According to court documents, the Iowa Attorney General’s office withdrew its’ petition to commit Smith because it didn’t have enough evidence after an expert the state used said Smith no longer meet the criteria as a sexually violent predator. As a result, Smith was released.

Then, the Storm Lake Times reported a parole officer found Smith had an unauthorized cell phone with child pornography with boys and girls between the ages of five to eight years old in March 2022. Smith was sentenced back to prison, according to the paper.

Conclusion: Smith was not “allowed free by Tom Miller because the man had a sex change”, he was released because he had served the sentence he received as part of a plea deal with a County Attorney years earlier.

The Attorney General’s Office never said Smith was no longer a risk to reoffend. Instead, it tried to have Smith committed. But, it ultimately dropped that effort for a lack of evidence, including his hormone levels due to the sex change.

The statement in the ad is factually untrue, which is why this gets an ‘F’.