The community is standing with the first black and democratic judge who is schedule to go 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 by the county board of elections, which refused to count more than 800 votes from majority Democrat and black precincts. 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. Hunter’s political adversaries were unhappy with her election; filing an unprecedented 30 lawsuits against Judge Hunter in retaliation after she had served less than 9 months on the bench.
Prosecutor Joe Deters, who had fought Hunter in the Board of Elections case, insisted that his office represent her in the 30 lawsuits filed by his cronies, and he allowed the lawsuits to go to default judgements. After Hunter filed ethics charges with the Ohio Supreme Court against Deters for suing and representing her at the same time, Deters discontinued his representation and hired two attorneys to represent her that were unfamiliar with juvenile law and juvenile court proceedings. They continued the practice of not filing answers to the cases.
In retaliation, Deters subsequently alleged that Hunter had committed 10 felonies, and he recommended his personal criminal defense and divorce attorneys to prosecute her, giving them a million dollar no bid contract. 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, who had 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, who is the pastor of The Western Hills Brethren in Christ Church in Cincinnati, and is the sole caregiver for her aging mother has been sentenced to a six-month jail sentence and is expected to appear in court and be taken into custody on Monday, July 22, for what community leaders and civil rights groups are calling trumped up charges and a false conviction designed to remove her from the bench. Hunter has exhausted all of her appeals. On May 29th, federal court 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 evidence to convict her of the charge. Judge Black, who is a Hamilton County resident and still politically connected to the Republican establishment in Cincinnati, ignored the fact that the trial court judge refused to poll the jury, in violation of the law. The only three black jurors on Hunters trial said that guilty was not their verdict, and in signed affidavits they said that if Judge Norbert Nadel had polled them they would have said so
Last week, Hunter’s supporters also addressed members of Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County Commissioners, to express their outrage over the nullification of 120,000 votes and more than $3,000,000 of tax payers money that has been spent in the 10-year court battle to keep Hunter off the bench. High ranking government officials have warned that Cincinnati may erupt in violence on Monday, given the circumstances surrounding why she may go to jail.
Several 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 demanding justice for the families, convictions for killer cops and structural change 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 this Sunday night, awaiting 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 his mother-in-law was presiding judge, and his brother was later appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court, where Patrick Dewine, who previously also sat on the First District Court of Appeals, and ruled against Hunter on several cases is also beholden to Prosecutor Deters. Deters tentacles reach all the way to the federal court where Judge Timothy Black, a formal Republican recently ruled against Hunter at the federal court level. Now they plan to put her in jail, a few days before the Jazz Festival, the city’s largest black festival. Reverend Damon Lynch III said, “If that happens, you can be assured that Cincinnati will be volatile at best”. If Hunter goes to jail, Lynch says he and several other pastors are also prepared to go to jail. Lynch is a beloved pastor in Cincinnati, who leads a sizable congregation in Cincinnati.
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, 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, became 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 Assistant Prosecutor Katie Pridemore, the key witness in the case, was on the jury, and a man who described himself as the best 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.
The jury pool was also 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 she did not commit.
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 having to stand trial for charges that arose out of her administrative duties as judge.
While the Special Prosecutors sought to try Hunter on a 10th charge, that grew out of the same fact pattern, and retry her on 8 of the charges that resulted in a mistrial, her attorneys discovered that Republican officials in the juvenile court illegally. destroyed computer evidence that could have exonerated her. After this discovery, the Special Prosecutors dropped the nine remaining charges.
In August 2017, reporter James McNair broke a story 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. 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.
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 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 prison entities.
For more information contact:
Dr. Vanessa Enoch, Ph.D., MBA
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