Former Judge Fears “Being another Sandra Bland”
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
The impending jailing of Judge Tracie Hunter, the first African American Juvenile Court Judge in Hamilton County’s long history, has the city of Cincinnati on edge, according to her supporters and a former state senator.
“I think it’s going to be a problem,” said former Cincinnati State Sen. Eric Kearney, who is revered as “The Connector in Chief” throughout the state and neighboring Kentucky.
An attorney by trade, Kearney currently serves as president and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African-American Chamber of Commerce.
Kearney told a group of Black Press of America publishers that he’s concerned that the prosecution and conviction of Judge Tracie Hunter and her impending six-month jail sentence, that’s set to begin on July 22, will rekindle the same intense racial division that led to race riots less than 20 years ago.
“I’m telling you, black people are not going to take [Hunter going to jail] lightly. The city is on edge,” Kearney said. “The city is going to explode.”
Hunter was convicted of just one of the 10 counts against her for securing a public contract.
Kearney, Hunter and her vast number of supporters have said the process used to convict her wreaked of politics, corruption, nepotism and racism.
The jury that rendered the guilty verdict was comprised of political foes and others associated with the prosecutors and a Republican establishment that didn’t take kindly to Hunter breaking the GOP and white-male dominated stronghold to win a seat on the bench in 2010, her supporters have pointed out.
Surprisingly, one of the jurors worked for WCPO Television, a local station that has filed numerous lawsuits against Hunter.
Also, court documents revealed that the jury foreman contributed $500 to state Sen. Bill Seitz, the father of county jury coordinator Brad Seitz, who was responsible for compiling the panel of jurors.
Hunter said three black jurors, none of whom had known ties to prosecutors and all of whom held out for acquittal, ultimately succumbed to pressure from other jurors and a judge who refused to allow defense lawyers to poll the jury after announcing the verdict.
In every American criminal trial, particularly those that end in guilty verdicts, it’s the right of attorneys to request the judge to poll all 12 jurors to ensure each were in agreement with the verdict.
“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Hunter said as she stood in front of a large group of supporters sporting black T-shirts imprinted with the logo, “Justice for Judge Tracie Hunter.”
“If the judge polled the jury, it happened in a blink, but I don’t remember that happening,” Kearney said.
“At the close of the trial, three jurors came forward and said that their true verdict was not guilty and if Judge Norbert Nadel had polled the jury, they would have said so,” Hunter said.
After being convicted on one of 10 counts filed against her, Hunter lost her appeals, one of which was presided over by prosecutor Joe Deters’ mother-in-law, Judge Sylvia Hendon.
Representatives for Deters and Hendon have declined to comment to NNPA Newswire.
Hunter, who earned her undergraduate degree from Miami University in 1988 and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1992, won election in 2010, stunning the Republican-led city by defeating GOP contender John Williams.
Williams and the GOP contested Hunter’s victory and 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, ensued.
Hunter then filed a federal lawsuit to have those voted counted.
While the court finally ordered those votes to be counted, election officials still certified Williams as the victor.
However, once the votes were counted, the election was overturned in Hunter’s favor.
The 18-month period proved pivotal because then-Gov. John Kasich appointed Williams to the bench and the state Supreme Court changed the rules giving Williams administrative authority over the court.
As the senior judge and the only one elected, Hunter would have received the position of administrative judge.
Still, Hunter worked behind the bench to protect the rights of children including refusing to allow their names and faces to appear in news coverage.
After serving just 18 months, her enemies found a way to silence her and end her career.
Hunter was charged with theft for using her judicial credit card to appeal the lawsuits filed against her by Deters, the prosecutor.
“I think this is about power and control,” Kearney said. “Judge Hunter didn’t come through traditional means and she didn’t come through the status quo and that makes her a threat,” he said.
Kearney said the city is on edge, something Hunter acknowledges that she’s fully aware of.
“There is so much racism, so much nepotism and so much cronyism here in Cincinnati but I just hold on to the belief that the truth shall set you free and I will continue to stand on the truth,” Hunter said.
Now, with her law license suspended and having exhausted any savings and appeals, Hunter is facing jail.
Further frustrating is that Hunter is the lone caregiver to her ailing and aging mother and Hunter said she knows that her pending incarceration is both political and racially-motivated.
In a televised interview with a local station in Cincinnati, Hunter said she fears being another Sandra Bland, the African American woman who in 2015 was found dead in her jail cell just three days after being arrested during a traffic stop.
“I want everyone to know that I don’t drink … I don’t do drugs… I have no intention of harming myself,” Hunter said.