Truth Squad: Republicans attack Dana Nessel for firm’s defense on sex crimes

“Dangerous Dana Nessel” shares a 30-second ad with Larry Nassar, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. No, there’s no connection between Nessel and the three infamous sex abusers.

New Truth Squad rating categories

Truth Squad has reduced the number of rating categories to the following:

  • FAIR: The ad or statement is generally accurate and fairly and credibly presents the speaker’s position on the issue at hand.     
  • MISLEADING: While individual parts of the ad or statement may be accurate, it reaches a conclusion or leaves an impression about an issue or candidate that is misleading in important respects
  • FOUL: The ad or statement contains one or more material factual errors

Michigan Democratic attorney general candidate Dana Nessel is blasted for having worked at a law firm that defended accused sex offenders in a television ad paid for by the Michigan Republican Party.

Misleading images and a blatant disregard for the role of defense attorneys earn the ad a rating of foul. The ad is on stronger ground attacking the crass-marketing tactics used by Nessel’s former firm to win the business of accused child rapists.   

THE CLAIMS

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The 30-second ad begins with shots of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Larry Nassar along with Nessel, with a narrator asking:  

“Who is still protecting the sex abusers? Dana Nessel’s former law firm specialized in letting men get away with the most heinous acts. They once questioned a young victim’s memory in order to get their client found not guilty of molesting a five-year-old girl. They bragged about preventing sex crime charges and worked to convinced judges to drop protective orders. Instead of holding criminals accountable, Dana Nessel defended them. We deserve an attorney general who is fighting for our families, not the criminals.”

On the screen are the words, “Dangerous Dana Nessel.”

FACTS

Sexual assault has received greater attention in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and with the high-profile cases of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, TV and comedy legend Bill Cosby, and Larry Nassar, the Olympic gymnastic team doctor and physician at Michigan State University who sexually assaulted hundreds of young athletes.

Nessel and her law firm had nothing to do with defending those three people. So why are they in an ad about Dana Nessel?

Sarah Anderson, deputy chief of staff and communications director for the Michigan Republican Party, told Truth Squad the images of Weinstein, Cosby and Nassar are in the ad because “they are well-known sex abusers,” and Nessel’s law firm has defended accused sex abusers.

Anderson also said the case cited in the ad was taken from Nessel’s former law firm’s own website.

That website has since been taken down and Nessel left the firm in May to run for attorney general). The new site, chriskessellaw.com, lists only Nessel’s former law partner Chris Kessel, and does not include the case example listed in the ad.

A report by Deadline Detroit in April, though, describes a similar case discussed on the website of what was then the Nessel Kessel law firm, about cross-examining a 12-year-old girl on alleged sexual abuse:

“Chris Kessel carefully and meticulously took apart the complaining witness’s story, piece by piece … Cross-examining a 12-year-old girl about an alleged rape is not something you learn overnight. It is something you learn with countless hours of study and experience. Criminal sexual conduct cases are not cases that just any attorney can handle. It takes an experienced criminal defense attorney, who knows what buttons to push and when to push them, to successfully defend against this type of charge.”

The Nessel campaign did not dispute the story of the court case recounted in the TV ad, instead referring to a statement Kessel released to the media in May that stated it was he, not Nessel, who handled the sex assault case and who had written the post about the case on the firm’s website.

“None of these cases had anything to do with Dana Nessel, in any way,” Kessel wrote. “She had nothing to do with representing any of these clients, in any way.”

CONCLUSION:

The Republican attack ad tries to stoke fear, while seemingly questioning one of the fundamental principles on which the United States was founded: that anyone charged with a crime, even the most heinous, deserves a full-throated defense. That’s what defense attorneys do.

Some Michigan voters may not want to support an attorney whose firm defended people accused of sex crimes, even if that attorney wasn’t personally involved in the cases. But defense attorneys play as vital a role in our judicial system as prosecutors and judges.

It’s also worth noting the ad never clarifies that Nessel did not represent the unholy trinity of Weinstein, Cosby or Nassar. To the contrary, near the end, it runs their photos a second time as the narrator says, “Instead of holding criminals accountable, Dana Nessel defended them.”

And the characterization that Nessel’s firm specialized in “letting men get away with the most heinous acts” ignores that defendants are not considered criminals until pronounced so in court. So there is no factual basis these men “got away” with anything.

The use of images of infamous sex abusers with no connection to the Democratic candidate, and the assertion that defense attorneys side with criminals over citizens, earns this ad a call of foul.

The ad would have been on firmer ground had it limited its criticism to the almost gleeful way Nessel’s former firm marketed legal services to accused offenders. Its website bragged of the firm’s ability to “know what buttons to push” to discredit young accusers.

Whether or not Dana Nessel actually litigated these cases or wrote the web postings is beside the point. Nessel, who has cloaked her campaign in the #MeToo movement, used the firm’s website to aggressively promote its talent for picking apart the testimony of children. Republicans are well within bounds to point that out to voters.

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Comments

Don
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 9:10am

Remember it was the republicans that poison the city of Flint. Took lotto money from the public schools and gave it to their privet schools causeing over 200 public schools to close!!!

Todd
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 12:34pm

You fool. You have no clue.

Bernadette
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 1:03pm

From Merriam Webster dictionary:
Definition of name-calling
the use of offensive names especially to win an argument or to induce rejection or condemnation (as of a person or project) without objective consideration of the facts

Matt
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 5:18pm

Nor can he spell! Reminds me of that guy running for office a couple of years ago, whose response to every question was "The rent is too damn high".

wittke
Sun, 09/23/2018 - 8:09am

Boy matt you realy know your facts like all brain damaged republicans>>> having a conversation with you is like giving meds to a dead person!!!

Ben W Washburn
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 12:12pm

Thanks for making this thoughtful analysis. I wish that your story had a wider readership.

Rose
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 2:24pm

I do too Ben, wish their story had wider readership!!

Todd
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 12:33pm

Hypocrites on both sides as always but where are the dems at when their own colleagues are accused? They defend to the end. If they can't, they won't talk about it and just bury it. If they can weaponize sexual abuse, they will. The #metoo movement has been hijacked and weaponized for political gain by democrats.

Stephen C Brown
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 1:57pm

Todd-How could an issue like #MeToo be "weaponized"? That doesn't make any sense, and no one has blamed either Democrats or Republicans for the abuse of women. That, unfortunately, seems to be as common a sin for Catholic priests, police officers, comedians, CEOs, and leaders of the IMF. The only thing I can find in common is that they are all men, and it doesn't matter what political party they belong to.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 1:55pm

" Among success stories on the law firm’s website is a 2015 case in which Nessel AND Kessel won an acquittal for a man accused of raping his 11-year-old niece. The defendant had previously served time two decades ago in a separate case on the same type of charge: first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a child under 13.

In the more recent case, the initial rape trial ended with a deadlocked jury -- an 11-1 vote in favor of guilty. In the retrial, Nessel’s young protégé, attorney Chris Kessel, grilled the alleged victim, who was then 12, on the witness stand. Details of this case are prominently displayed on the website..."

When you're part of a law firm that destroys a 12 year old who was sexually assaulted by a recidivistic sex offender, how does anyone with any integrity live with themselves (and obviously proud of their actions)?

Its laughable to presume that Ms. Nessel was totally clueless as to what cases her her fellow lawyer was defending.

You might as well put up the disclaimer that The Bridge's Truth Squad was paid for by the Dana Nessel for Michigan AG Campaign.

Anonymous
Wed, 10/03/2018 - 6:33pm

You are required by law to mount a defense. That is your job. If you don't like our system, what would you substitute? Death to everyone accused?

Lee Griffin
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 2:04pm

Let's remember that one of our most distinguished Founding Fathers, John Adams, took on the role of defending the British soldiers who were accused of murder in the Boston Massacre incident. He didn't agree with the British on the politics of the Revolution, of course, but he was determined that justice would be served by providing the redcoats with defense counsel. There's nothing wrong with Nessel's law firm defending the accused to ensure a fair trial. That marketing line, however, is despicable. I don't think Mr. Adams would have approved.

Jane White
Fri, 09/21/2018 - 3:26pm

Repulsive ad. This story, however, is well written and raises issues that should be acknowledged. The ethical responsibilities of law firms in their advertising should be challenged and brought forth unless those who are responsible as partners of these claims are acting as the true premise of how they wish the public to know about how they view these cases We all know that people have a right to an attorney. Firms don't have to put out that kind of "win" analysis. What is that to do with her? Interesting. That is not indicative of her career but apparently, she had no power to change that kind of publicity.. She will address that I am confident.

Dick scott
Mon, 09/24/2018 - 8:16am

Today local republicans support the denial of investigation of any suspected abuse for Kavanaugh. In litigation defense is important if done ethically as is prosecution.
Ask Harper Lee. We had an Atticus Finch for President a decade ago

Kristen Whaley
Fri, 10/19/2018 - 12:06pm

What people are not reading about are the thousands of innocent men being accused and locked up for life! There are NO other crimes where someone can make a police report at anytime even 30 years later saying so n so raped me, touched my kid, ect., without any other evidence and all the sudden your life is over and your facing life in prison over a jealous ex! It has become so hideous since the me too movement that it is the go to for revenge, yet there are no laws protecting these thousands of innocent men! And yes it's that easy to ruin someone's life, so just imagine your son getting a divorce and ending up in jail facing life over a angry ex! It happens every day and it's getting worse by the day! If I got robbed I can't go tell the police a year later that so n so robbed me and beat me up so go arrest him, so why is it that sex crimes do not need any evidence or time limit! Do people realize how many vendictive women are out there? Maybe you should call the Innocence Project and ask them how out of control this really is! I am in disbelief over it and scared for every man out there!