FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community Leaders and Clergy Hosts a Prayer Vigil for Judge Tracie Hunter
Cincinnati, OH- May 31, 2019— Over twenty pastors from across the city of Cincinnati, and several community leaders hosted a prayer vigil on Thursday, May 30, 2019 for Judge Tracie Hunter. The prayer vigil was planned the evening before, after US District Court Judge Timothy Black signed an order upholding the trial courts guilty verdict and lifting the stay of execution of sentencing for her five-year-old conviction. During the prayer vigil, Hunter got news that Black also denied a motion to reinstitute the stay pending her attorneys intent to appeal his decision.
Hunter’s case was before Judge Black on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus that was filed by her attorneys, who asserted that she was denied her fundamental US Constitutional right to a fair trial in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Black’s decision stated that, “Generally speaking, the federal court must decide whether the state court was wrong to conclude that Hunter received the fair trial that every criminal defendant is entitled under the United States Constitution.”
The more pertinent question, raised by clergy and community leader members of the Coalition for a Just Hamilton County in their emergency meeting held late Wednesday night, was whether or not Judge Hunter should have been treated the same as every other criminal defendant, given her special status as a Common Pleas judge. When sentencing Hunter to a six month jail sentence for her non-violent charge, Judge Norbert Nadel made it clear that he was imposing a harsher sentence because of her status as a judge.
Under the Ohio and US Constitution, elected officials and judges are generally afforded special legal rights that should protect them from being treated the same as every criminal defendant. Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Pat Dewine and Prosecutor, Joe Deters was extended such preferential treatment after City Beat reporter James McNair broke the story on August 14, 2017, that Dewine had secured a job for his son Matt with the Prosecutor’s office.
The article included a copy of the April 23, 2017 email exchange between Dewine and Deters. Dewine wrote, “Joe, Can you find a spot in your internship program for my son, Matt this summer. I’ve attached his resume. He is a freshman at Miami. It would be a great experience for him. If you can, I would really appreciate it.” Deters forwarded that email to his Executive Assistant, Janet Roedel with the comment, “Another for sure”.
According to the City Beat article, Senator Cecil Thomas launched an independent investigation and inevitably referred Justice Dewine and Deters to the Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel for sanctioning. Neither were held accountable for their actions. The statute that governs the inappropriateness of their actions was precisely the same statute that Hunter was charged under. Their conduct is specifically prohibited under this statute, whereas in Judge Hunter’s case there was no evidence or testimony that she violated any laws, or secured a public contract.
According to attorneys Lou Sirkin and Jennifer Branch’s arguments during court hearings in January 2016, Hunter was entitled to judicial immunity based on the nature of the claims against her, which stemmed from her rulings and administrative duties carried out in the course of her role as judge. Similarly, it would seem that Equal Protection statutes should have protected Hunter from being subjected to criminal charges and afforded her the same protections as Deters and Dewine. Legal experts across the country agreed.
Coalition members expressed that Hunter was subjected to a system, which has no checks or balances, subject only to the power of the dominant political authority, her accusers and political adversaries. They noted that charging her criminally effectively nullified the votes of the nearly 120,000 voters that put her in office.
Community members and clergy in attendance on Wednesday evening organized and led Thursday’s prayer vigil. Clergy took turns praying for various aspects of the case, and surrounded Hunter in a show of strength and solidarity, offering prayer and promises to continue to stand with her in the days to come. Pastor Damon Lynch III gave an impassioned speech stating that, “It is our hope that the charges will be dropped against this innocent pastor and judge, but as members of the clergy, I feel it is our duty to commit that if she goes to jail that she doesn’t go alone…every clergy member in this city and members of our congregations should be prepared to go with her.”
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Dr. Vanessa Enoch, Ph.D.