Republican Judge plans to send a pastor and the first black and Democratic juvenile court judge to jail
Cincinnati, OH – June 7, 2019 –Former Republican federal court judge upheld a five-year-old conviction of Judge Tracie Hunter. On May 29, 2019, Judge Timothy Black upheld the one conviction against Judge Hunter, despite the fact that there was no evidence to convict her of the charge, and three of the jurors on the case said that guilty was not their verdict. Hunter was charged with securing a public contract. No evidence was ever presented in the case to substantiate that claim. Initially, Special Prosecutors alleged that she had secured work hours for her brother, but after evidence was presented in court that her brother had been working for the court for seven years before she arrived on the bench, and she had no involvement in securing his hours, the Prosecutors changed the narrative and alleged that she tried to help him keep his job. She was inevitably convicted for something she was never actually charged with. Judge Hunter who is the pastor of a church in Cincinnati, and is the sole caregiver for her aging mother has been sentenced to a six-month jail sentence. She is scheduled to report for execution of sentencing any day now at the discretion of the trial court judge.
Hunter is the first African-American and first Democrat to become Juvenile Court Judge in Hamilton County’s 110-year history. Hunter won her seat after a heated court battle and numerous appeals by the Hamilton County Board of Elections, which refused to count more than 800 votes from majority Democrat and black precincts in Cincinnati, OH. Prosecutor Joe Deters represented the Board of Elections against Judge Hunter in the voter disenfranchisement lawsuit. When Hunter learned that the votes were disqualified after poll workers sent voters to the wrong precinct, she filed a lawsuit to have those votes counted. The federal court ruled in her favor and compelled the Board of Elections to count the votes. After the votes were counted, the election was overturned in Hunter’s favor. She finally took the bench after an 18-month court battle. Nearly 120,000 voters elected Hunter to the bench.
Within five months of Hunter’s swearing in, Republican county officials in the Prosecutor’s office, Commissioner’s office, Public Defenders office, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and WCPO TV began filing random and frivolous lawsuits against Hunter. An unprecedented 30 lawsuits were filed against her in less than 9 months on the bench. The Prosecutor, who had fought Hunter in the Board of Elections lawsuit accused Hunter of crimes, after Republican attorneys failed to file responses and allowed the 30 lawsuits to go to default judgments. Immediately after Hunter filed ethics charges against him with the Ohio Supreme Court surrounding ethical violations on the part of the prosecutors office on juvenile cases in her court, Republican Prosecutor Joe Deters retaliated and subsequently alleged that Hunter had committed 10 felony charges, and he recommended his personal criminal defense and divorce attorneys, Merlyn Shiverdecker and Scott Croswell, III as Special Prosecutors to prosecute Hunter giving them a million dollar no bid contract, after Judge Hunter had only served as a juvenile court judge for 18 months. Croswell’s law firm represented Prosecutor Deters in his personal divorce case. 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, a former Republican prosecutor and past Director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, could unilaterally control the Juvenile Court.
In the criminal trial, Judge Hunter faced a jury composed of friends, neighbors, attorneys, and wives of her political foes. One juror worked for WCPO TV, the station that sued Hunter after she barred media from publishing the names and faces of accused children in one of the cases that was before her. Court testimony revealed that Hunter made this decision after the KKK threatened the 12-year-old children and their families in front of North College Hill Elementary School. An attorney from the law firm that represented WCPO in the suit they filed against Hunter was in the jury pool, and the spouse of one of the firm’s attorneys became the jury foreperson. An employee of the television station that sued Judge Hunter was also on her jury. WCPO’s case was still pending in court at the time the attorney and the employee was put on her jury.
The composition of the jury pool and other jury improprieties uncovered in Hunter’s case raise considerable suspicion. The jury pool was composed primarily of jurors connected to Republican judges and the Prosecutor’s office and from predominantly white 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 jury pool included a White male employee from the treasurer’s office, who lied during the jury selection process
and said that Judge Hunter hugged one of the Black jurors in the courtroom. When the juror and Judge Hunter’s
attorney requested to see court video, the judge decided to dismiss the black juror. The mother of one of the police officers from the community where the KKK threatened the children found herself on the jury, along with the best friend of Assistant Prosecutor Katie Pridemore, who was a key witness in the case. The jury also consisted of the neighbor of peer judge Republican Heather Russell; the best friends of Judge John Williams, who lost the election to Judge Hunter; and the best friend of now Judge Curt Kissinger, the former Court Administrator who refused to work for Judge Hunter while she was on the bench. Four other jurors said they believed she was guilty before the start of the trial, but presiding judge in the case, Norbert Nadel refused to remove them from the jury.
The egregiousness of Judge Hunter’s trial didn’t stop with the fixed jury in her case. During trial, evidence was
presented that one of Judge Hunter’s judicial rulings was illegally changed in the system and documents were backdated by Lisa Miller, one of the case managers at the command of her boss, Republican and now judge, Connie Murdock. Judge Hunter was denied evidence in the possession of Juvenile Court, in violation of the Brady Rule and Hunter’s appeals attorney found over 51 instances where the special prosecutors violated her right to a fair trial. She was also denied judicial immunity, which should have protected her from ever having to stand trial for any of these charges.
The judge in the case, Judge Norbert Nadel refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of Hunter’s Attorney. At the close of trial, that same day, two jurors came forward and said that their true verdict was not guilty, and if Nadel had polled the jury, they would have said so. A third juror came forward two weeks later and admitted the same, adding that she was strongly pressured by the jury forewoman to convict Hunter, despite finding her innocent. Hunter was convicted on one of the 10 charges, which was appealed to the court where Prosecutor Deters’ Mother-in-law, Sylvia Hendon served as presiding judge. Judge Hendon simultaneously presided over Hunter’s cases as a visiting Judge in Juvenile Court, which taxpayer’s found to be a gross abuse of power and a conflict of interest.
While the Special Prosecutors sought to again bring the nine charges pursuant the mistrial, Judge Hunter’s attorneys discovered that Republican officials in the juvenile court destroyed computer evidence that could have exonerated Hunter. When Judge Hunter’s attorney’s brought this to the attention of the court, the Special Prosecutors dropped the nine remaining charges. The juvenile court destroyed the hard-drives on Judge Hunter’s computer as well as the Case Manager’s computer, who admitted to illegally backdating the documents in her case. Had those hard-drives been produced, it would have proven Hunter’s innocence in all of the charges that had been brought against her.
In August 2017, reporter James McNair broke a story with the headline, “For Prosecutor’s Office internships, political and family ties get you in the door”. His article contained an email showing 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. At the request of Justice Dewine, Deters hired Dewine’s two sons. State Senator, Cecil Thomas referred the case to the Republican dominated Ohio Supreme Court Disciplinary Committee, which ultimately chose not to bring charges against the pair.
Republican Judge, Patrick Dinkelacker, who killed Pamela Barnett a 60-year-old black grandmother, after swerving and crossing the double yellow centerline in December 2013, will execute Hunter’s sentence. He was never charged in the vehicular homicide, however the family brought a civil suit against him. It was never reported whether he was given a sobriety test. Despite the doctrine of impartiality, Dinkelacker weighed in on the federal courts proceedings against Judge Hunter. More importantly, Judge Dinkelacker, who formerly served on the court of appeals had ruled on many of Hunter’s juvenile court cases, and those cases were used as evidence against her at trial. Based on his clear conflict of interest, the rules of ethics required that he recuse himself from presiding over her trial. Multiple Ohio Supreme Court cases also dictated that a judge should not be allowed to preside over a peer judges case in the same county. Dinkelacker chose to remain on her case.
The Prosecutor’s Office and several Republican judges have participated in the political takedown of Judge Hunter. 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 for blacks, especially for black 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. Having a fair system would significantly reduce the profit margins of privatized prison entities.
The Coalition for a Just Hamilton County, 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. 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. 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 nullifie8d the votes of the nearly 120,000 voters that put her in office.
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.
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.”
For more information, contact:
The Coalition for a Just Hamilton County
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