116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES -- In a new ad, Brenna Bird, the Republican candidate for Iowa attorney general, accused current Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller of allowing a sex offender to go free because of a gender transition.
The ad then says the individual reoffended with child pornography after being released.
The ad references two articles in the Storm Lake Times that deal with the case of Josie Smith, who previously identified as a man.
“Liberal Tom Miller - after 40 years in office, he’s making Iowa less safe,” the ad says at the end.
“The Iowa Attorney General has the responsibility to keep Iowans safe and fully prosecute threats to our neighborhoods,” Bird said in a news release. “Tom Miller refused to do that and used a sex change as the basis to allow a convicted child molester to go free. Enough is enough. It’s time for a new Attorney General.”
In an interview, Miller said the ad is “false and misleading on a number of scores.”
“She’s been a candidate for nine months and has gone from issue to issue, and has not gotten any attraction to her campaign in terms of why she should be attorney general and why I shouldn’t be, so she’s desperate at this point,” he said.
The claims in the ad center on Smith, who was convicted of lascivious acts with a minor in 2014 and put on probation but in 2015 was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison after violating the probation. Smith had also been previously convicted of sex offenses as a juvenile.
According to the Storm Lake Times, Smith began treatment for gender reassignment and started using female pronouns in 2017.
In June 2018, the Iowa Attorney General’s office sought to commit Smith to a secure unit for sexual predators ahead of her scheduled release of July 2018. A psychiatrist’s assessment found Smith was “more likely than not to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses if not confined in a secure facility.” The decision had been made based on assessments before Smith began transitioning.
But in January 2020, the state’s lawyers filed to dismiss that request because of new information from the state’s expert. Miller and his chief of staff, Lynn Hicks, said the hormone therapy Smith was receiving, which lowered testosterone, was part of the expert’s updated evaluation.
“The expert who evaluated Smith – and originally said Smith had a high probability of offending – later learned of the hormone therapy and changed the evaluation,” Hicks said in an email. “We could not go to a judge without the expert’s recommendation.”
Miller said the decision to not move forward with the recommendation was made by a prosecutor's review committee, which he said unanimously agreed there was not enough evidence to pursue commitment.
The prosecutor's review committee is a group appointed by the attorney general which, according to state law, "shall assist the attorney general in the determination of whether or not the person meets the definition of a sexually violent predator."
If the committee determines a person is a sexually violent predator, the attorney general can file a petition to support that claim, and the court then determines whether the person should be committed to a secure facility.
Smith was released from prison and subject to monitoring of her location and devices. She was also required to complete sex offender treatment.
In 2022, while residing in Sloan, Smith was found with an unauthorized cell phone that she admitted to using to view child pornography. She was also found in previous circumstances to have been drinking alcohol and using an unauthorized tablet to solicit sex in violation of parole. Because of those violations, she returned to prison.
Kush Desai, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, called the events a “tragedy" in an emailed statement, and that “...Bottom Line: Iowa needs an attorney general who’ll put Iowans and their safety above everything else, including nap time and woke agendas."
Keenan Crow, the director of policy and advocacy for One Iowa, an LGBTQ rights organization, said the ad deals in harmful stereotypes equating LGBTQ people as sex predators.
“Folks who commit sexual offenses against children need to be held accountable, I don’t think anybody questions that … and their transgender status shouldn’t matter in that at all. At least towards that premise we are in agreement,” Crow said.
But, they said, the ad is framed in a way that demonizes transgender people.
"It's doubling down on the kind of harmful rhetoric we've told these folks is very dangerous already," Crow said.