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Press Release

Cincinnati is likely to erupt, if the first black and democratic judge goes to jail on Monday morning

Cincinnati, OH – June 20, 2019 – Last week, thousands of Cincinnatians took to the streets for a protest march, a chain of justice and a protest demonstration in front of the prosecutor’s office in support of Judge Tracie Marie Hunter. Hunter is the first African-American and the first Democrat to become a judge in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court’s 110-year history.  Hunter won her seat after a heated 18-month court battle and numerous appeals reaching the U.S Supreme Court by the Board of Elections, who refused to count thousands of votes from majority Democrat and black precincts. The federal court ruled in Hunter’s favor and ordered the BOE to count several hundred votes, that overturned the election, sealing Hunter’s win. Hunter’s political adversaries, angered by her winning the election, filed an unprecedented 30 lawsuits against Judge Hunter in retaliation, after she had served less than 9 months on the bench.

Prosecutor Joe Deters, who fought Hunter in the Board of Elections case, forced Hunter to be represented by his office in the 30 lawsuits filed by his cronies. He further caused the lawsuits to result in default judgements against Hunter when he failed to file answers in those cases. After Hunter filed ethics charges with the Ohio Supreme Court against Deters for simultaneously suing her in the election case, and representing her as Judge. Deters then withdraw his representation, but appointed two attorneys he controlled, to represent her. Neither lawyer had ever practiced juvenile law or represented public officials.

In retaliation, Deters accused Hunter of crimes two weeks later and recommended his personal criminal defense and divorce attorneys to prosecute her, awarding them a million dollar contract. They charged her with 10 felonies. According to State Senator Cecil Thomas, these charges were a successful ploy by Deters to keep Hunter off the bench for the majority of her six-year term, so that John Williams, who lost the election to Hunter, could unilaterally control the Juvenile Court. Deters claims that he had nothing to do with her prosecution, but used his personal county budget and asset forfeiture funds to pay for the court case, when he could have secured attorneys free of charge through the Ohio Attorney General.

Judge Hunter, the senior pastor of The Western Hills Brethren in Christ Church in Cincinnati, and the sole caregiver for her mother, has been sentenced to six-months in jail. Hunter is expected to appear in court and be taken into custody Monday, July 22nd. She has exhausted her appeals. On May 29th, Judge Timothy Black lifted the stay and upheld the five-year-old conviction against Hunter for securing a public contract, despite the fact that there was no contract secured and no evidence to convict her of the charge. Judge Black is a Hamilton County resident and politically connected to the Republican establishment in Cincinnati. Black ignored the fact that the trial court judge refused to poll the jury, in violation of the law. The only three black jurors on Hunter’s trial said that guilty was not their verdict, and stated in sworn affidavits that they would have said so if Judge Norbert Nadel had polled them.

Over three million dollars of tax-payer money has been spent in the 10-year court battle to keep Hunter off the bench; and 120,000 votes to elect Hunter to the bench have been nullified. High-ranking government officials have warned that Cincinnati may erupt in violence on Monday, given the fact most people think she did not receive a fair trial and is facing jail for political and racial reasons.

Numerous civil rights organizations are backing Hunter, including the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP, the Cincinnati branch of the National Action Network, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Interdenominational Ministry Alliance, the Nation of Islam, the Church Collaborative, Concerned Citizens for Justice, and the Black United Front, which called for the successful economic boycott in 2001. The groups formed the Coalition for a Just Hamilton County, which is also composed of pastors, city and state government officials and members of the community at-large. The Democratic Party is also backing Hunter.

Cincinnati, which was rated by MSN Money as one of the worst places for blacks to live, is no stranger to racial disparity and social and economic disruption. In 2001, after a rash of police killings of unarmed black men, civil rights groups called for a boycott of the city and demanded justice for the families, convictions for killer cops and reform in policing in Cincinnati. Since then, the city has regressed. Major gentrification and displacement of black people from their homes, the disrespect of black leadership, a high unemployment rate and substantial black poverty has plagued the city. But it is the wrongful conviction and possible jailing of Judge Tracie Hunter that has the city on edge and demonstrators planning to spend the night on the courthouse steps Sunday night, to await her court appearance.

The civil rights groups insist that “Hunter was framed by the good ole boys and falsely charged with crimes, after she discovered that the prosecutor was hiding evidence and locking up innocent kids (mostly black boys), for crimes they didn’t commit”. They assert that the prosecutor and his political cronies fixed her jury and were able to convict her by putting their friends and associates on her jury and by controlling every level of the court from the First District Court of Appeals, where Deters” mother-in-law Sylvia Hendon was presiding judge, and his brother Dennis was later appointed. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Patrick DeWine, who previously sat on the First District Court of Appeals, and ruled against Hunter on several cases, is also beholden to Prosecutor Deters. Deters’ tentacles reach to the federal court, where Judge Timothy Black, a former Republican, recently ruled against Hunter in the US District Court.  

Reverend Damon Lynch III, says he and several other prominent pastors are also prepared to go to jail if Hunter is incarcerated. Lynch is a beloved pastor in Cincinnati, who leads New Prospect Baptist Church, a sizable congregation in Cincinnati. Lynch says that “If Hunter goes to jail, you can be assured that Cincinnati will be volatile at best”. Victoria Straughn, of Concerned Citizens for Justice, warned Hamilton County Commissioners that “if Judge Hunter goes to jail, we are willing to take Cincinnati right back to where it was in 2001, when riots and a boycott brought the city economically to its knees.

Judge Hunter’s jury consisted of an employee of WCPO TV, a station that sued Hunter after she barred media from publishing the names and faces of accused children. Court testimony revealed that Hunter made this decision after the KKK threatened 12-year-old children and their families in front of North College Hill Elementary School. An attorney from the law firm that represented WCPO was in the jury pool, and the spouse of one of the firm’s attorneys, Sandra Kirkham, was the jury forewoman. After the trial, it was discovered that she had contributed $500 to State Senator Bill Seitz, the father of Hamilton County Jury Coordinator, Brad Seitz. The best friend of the state’s key witness, Assistant Prosecutor Katie Pridemore, was on the jury, and a man who identified himself as a friend of Curt Kissenger (now a Municipal Court judge, previously the Juvenile Court Administrator). The best friend of Judge John Williams, the juvenile court judge who lost to Hunter, was also on the jury. Judge Norbert Nadel allowed four people to sit on Hunter’s jury who said that they believed she was guilty before the trial began.

The jury pool was composed primarily of jurors from predominantly Republican districts in the County, with very few in the pool from the larger city of Cincinnati, which is highly Democratic and composed of over 51% people of color. The composition of the jury pool and other jury improprieties, uncovered in Hunter’s case, raises considerable suspicion that the jury was fixed and that several judges and the prosecutor colluded to convict her of crimes that the state’s own witnesses testified she did not commit. 

Hunter’s appeals attorney found over 51 instances where the special prosecutors engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. She was also denied judicial immunity, which should have protected her from having to stand trial for charges that arose out of her administrative duties as judge. After a forensics expert discovered that Republican officials in the juvenile court illegally destroyed computer evidence that could have exonerated her, Special Prosecutors dropped the nine remaining charges. It appears they framed her.

In August 2017, reporter James McNair discovered that the Cincinnati Hamilton County Prosecutor, Joe Deters and son of Governor Mike Dewine and Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Pat Dewine had engaged in the same conduct for which they had falsely brought charges and convicted Judge Hunter. State Senator Cecil Thomas referred the case to the presiding Common Pleas Judge and the Republican dominated Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Committee, who ultimately chose not to bring charges against the pair.

The denial of the right of blacks to serve as Common Pleas judges in Ohio has been pervasive and has led to the denial of fair trials, mistreatment, and mass incarceration of blacks, especially juveniles who are not entitled to legal representation in Ohio’s courts. The privatized juvenile justice system receives about $220,000 per year per child to incarcerate a juvenile. Over 92% of the incarcerated children were black during the time Hunter served, 97% of them were black boys. Having a fair system would significantly reduce the profit margins of privatized juvenile detention centers.

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For more information contact:

Dr. Vanessa Enoch, Ph.D., MBA

vanessa.enoch@gmail.com

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