Ohio AG Dave Yost cast doubt on 10-year-old rape victim case, now 'rejoices' at arrest

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost appeared on Fox News this week, casting doubt on the veracity of Dr. Caitlin Bernard's account that a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim needed to travel to Indiana for an abortion.

Yost, a Republican, doubled down on that in an interview with the USA TODAY Network Ohio bureau on Tuesday.

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"Every day that goes by the more likely that this is a fabrication. I know the cops and prosecutors in this state. There's not one of them that wouldn't be turning over every rock, looking for this guy and they would have charged him," he said. "I'm not saying it could not have happened. What I'm saying to you is there is not a damn scintilla of evidence. And shame on the Indianapolis paper that ran this thing on a single source who has an obvious axe to grind.""

After news broke Wednesday of an arrest in the case, Yost issued a single sentence statement: "We rejoice anytime a child rapist is taken off the streets."

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

He later added that he's "absolutely delighted that this monster has been taken off the street. If convicted, he should spend the rest of his life in prison."

Gerson Fuentes, 27, of Columbus, was arrested Tuesday after police say he confessed to raping the child. He is charged with rape.

Yost is endorsed by the Ohio Right to Life PAC.

The same day that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Yost went to federal court to lift a stay on an Ohio law that bans abortion once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, usually about six weeks into a pregnancy.

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Called the "heartbeat" ban, the new law prohibits abortions, including in cases of rape or incest. The only exception is if the life of the mother were in jeopardy.

Yost said on Fox News that Ohio's law also allows an exception for a medical emergency and "this young girl, if she exists and if this horrible thing actually happened to her – breaks my heart to think about it – she did not have to leave Ohio to find treatment."

Democrat Jeff Crossman, Yost's opponent in the AG's race, said the attorney general misrepresented the law and that the exceptions are so narrowly tailored that doctors will be reluctant to risk a felony charge and losing their medical licenses. "He doesn't care about the facts."

Last week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called the child rape case a "tragedy," but didn't weigh in on the law he signed that barred her from getting the procedure in Ohio.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for DeWine said the governor has no further comment.

"And he has said that if the evidence supports, the rapist should spend the rest of his life in prison," said DeWine press secretary Dan Tierney.

Former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who is running against DeWine for governor, called on both DeWine and Yost to apologize for questioning the validity of the case.

The DeWine campaign called Whaley's statement misleading and false, saying "At no point did he express anything but empathy and compassion and demanded justice for the child victim."

DeWine's running mate, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, commented in 2019 on the heartbeat ban and the case of an 11-year-old impregnated by her rapist: "My heart goes out to everybody in that terrible situation. ... I also know that at the point there is a heartbeat, we're talking about a human life ... I hope we can find compassion to help give that child a chance at life no matter what terrible circumstance led up to that situation."

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, also cast doubt on the veracity of the story this week and shared an article about Yost's comments that no evidence had been found.

"Another lie," he said in the since-deleted tweet. "Anyone surprised?"

After news of the arrest broke, Jordan tweeted that Fuentes "should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Haley BeMiller contributed to this report.

Laura Bischoff is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio AG Dave Yost 'rejoices' at child rape arrest after doubting case