How Cortez Masto Could Have Brought Rapists and Murderers to Justice – But Didn’t

This year’s U.S. Senate race in Nevada features two opposing candidates who previously held the same office. With Republican Adam Laxalt and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevadans have the opportunity to evaluate them on how each performed their duties as Nevada Attorney General. Cortez Masto held that office for eight years, from January 2007 to January 2015. Laxalt took over the job of AG from Cortez Masto in January 2015 and served for four years, until January 2019. As AG, Laxalt tackled the opioid epidemic in Nevada with a vengeance, taking aggressive legal action against many opioids manufacturers and distributors, appointing the state’s first ever statewide opioid coordinator, and starting the state’s ‘Prescription for Addiction’ opioid program. Laxalt’s efforts were sorely needed, and they saved lives. But perhaps the most significant mess Laxalt cleaned up as AG was Nevada’s backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits. During Cortez Masto’s time as AG, the backlog of untested rape kits grew to nearly 8,000. Some of them sat in police vaults for decades. “[T]here is little direct evidence that she [Cortez Masto] took direct action on dealing with the backlog,” PolitiFact reported in 2016. “[T]he charge that nothing was done to reduce the backlog during her time as attorney general is accurate.” PolitiFact also noted that Cortez Masto’s “successor, Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt, made filling the backlog a campaign pledge and was able to secure roughly $3.7 million in grants and redirected settlement funds to pay for funding the backlog about a year after taking office.” By the end of his term, Laxalt’s tireless efforts resulted in the elimination of Nevada’s rape kit backlog and at least 13 arrests with additional warrants outstanding.

  • Laxalt’s work continued to yield results even after his term as AG expired. In 2020, a Las Vegas man was arrested for a sexual assault that a woman reported in 2012, when Cortez Masto was AG. “[T]he kit went untouched for six years until it was examined in September 2018 and tied months later to [the man’s] previous criminal history in Nevada,” reported the Review-Journal.

  • In another case, police announced in May 2019 that a 1982 murder of an unidentified woman was solved using evidence recovered from an old rape kit. "I’m so happy that they solved it because now I know more about my family," said the victim’s nephew.

Not only did Laxalt clear the backlog and get justice for victims and their families, he also took violent criminals off the streets and ensured they could not rape or murder someone else. Cortez Masto cannot say the same. She had eight years as AG to do the job, and she neglected victims who deserved justice and needed help.