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Oberlin College: We can’t get a fair trial in our home county

Oberlin College: We can’t get a fair trial in our home county

Wants venue transfer, claiming local media coverage of Gibson’s Bakery lawsuit “turned the tide of public opinion within Lorain County against Oberlin College…”

Oberlin College is struggling financially, after over a decade of intense national media coverage of extreme social justice activism on campus. The college has not met its enrollment goals resulting in a financial shortfall and talk about how to control expenses.

We first covered the financial fallout from enrollment decline in September 2017, Radical fallout: Oberlin College enrollment drops, causing financial problems.

An article this week in the student Oberlin Review notes that college president Carmen Ambar has been speaking to groups on campus about the problems:

To address the deficit, which currently sits at $3 million but is projected to increase to $9 million next year and to $20 million in following years, Ambar suggested adjusting housing and dining facilities to fit the smaller classes that Oberlin has enrolled in recent years — in the past 10 years, the College has only hit its enrollment goal of 2,950 students twice. Since 66 percent of Oberlin’s revenue comes from tuition, student enrollment is a significant factor in the resources Oberlin has to work with.

Against this backdrop of financial tribulations, we have been covering two major lawsuits against Oberlin.

In federal court an expelled male student has sued the college and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo. “John Doe” alleges alleging that the sexual assault hearing process was fundamentally biased against men, resulting in a 100% conviction rate for accused students who go through the hearing process. The federal court recently allowed the expelled male student to add allegations in an Amended Complaint. Oberlin likely will seek dismissal of the Amended Complaint.

While the federal suit concerns a disciplinary process that only directly affects students, a state court suit by local Gibson’s Bakery involves local community issues which threaten to turn into a full-blown town-gown feud. We have covered the Gibson Bakery story extensively.

[Photo credit: Daniel McGraw for Legal Insurrection]

The short version is that three Oberlin students were arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s bakery. Oberlin students claimed racial profiling, and mounted protests and a boycott supported by college student groups, administrators and faculty.

The boycott continued even after police released data showing there was no racial profiling in shoplifting arrests at the bakery, and the three students pled guilty.

See these posts for background on the dispute:

Gibson’s sued the college and its Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo, for defamation and multiple other claims. Oberlin moved to dismiss some of the claims, for trespass on a parking lot and for the negligent hiring, retention, or supervision of Raimondo. That motion was denied, so the case goes forward in full.

Please see these posts for full background on the legal proceedings:

According to the court docket for the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, the case is scheduled for jury trial on May 1, 2019.

Oberlin College, however, does not want the jury trial to take place in it’s home county, arguing it cannot get a fair trial. Oberlin College’s Motion to Transfer Venue (pdf.)(full embed at bottom of post) starts with the questionable tactic, which I have highlighted before, of attempting to accuse Gibson’s of racial discrimination and assault on the arrested and convicted students:

… On November 9, 2016, an Oberlin College student attempted to shoplift wine and purchase alcohol with a fake ID from Gibson’s Bakery. Allyn D. Gibson, a Gibson’s Bakery employee who was working at the time, confronted the student and ran after him when he exited the store. Allyn D. Gibson, a white male, then proceeded to initiate a physical bout with the accused shoplifter, a black male, on Oberlin College’s campus, as a crowd of students and community members watched. Many who witnessed or later heard about this incident believed that the physical altercation was racially motivated. From their vantage point, a white man chased and assaulted a black man without provocation and then two female black students intervened to protect the male student. These concerns were heightened when only the black students involved were arrested by the Oberlin Police Department officer who arrived on the scene in response to 911 calls
from some of those same witnesses who reported Allyn D. Gibson as the aggressor….

Oberlin then goes on to argue the college had no real involvement in the problems, again in an accusatory manner:

Plaintiffs now allege that they have suffered a loss of business as a result of the protests that occurred. They also assert that Oberlin College spearheaded the protests and defamed them by creating and distributing an allegedly defamatory flyer – all of which caused purported financial harm to Gibson’s Bakery. Indeed, Plaintiffs’ Complaint is fraught with allegations designed to portray themselves as victims wrongfully targeted by Defendants and the protestors when, in fact, many Oberlin students and community members were protesting the physical assault by Allyn D. Gibson on unarmed Oberlin students who did not initiate the physical struggle. Defendants never acted wrongfully or unlawfully. Indeed, they did not organize or sanction the protests or distribute flyers, and they never targeted or caused any harm to Plaintiffs….

From what I’ve seen so far, this narrative painted by Oberlin seems out of place with how the events unfolded. It’s a very risky strategy to accuse a business which was the victim of shoplifting to which the perps pleaded guilty of being racist, particularly when police statistics don’t seem to back it up. The boycott of Gibson’s was a full-blown campus feeding frenzy, and included the college itself cutting Gibson’s off from business. But Oberlin is entitled to present the defense it wants.

But the motion makes clear Oberlin doesn’t want to present that accusatory defense in a jury drawn from the local community, arguing that misleading news coverage has tainted the jury pool:

Despite Defendants’ lack of involvement in the protests, and their concern for Oberlin College and the Lorain County community, the media coverage within Lorain County of this case and the events giving rise to it has been sensationalized and has not been accurate or impartial.

As a result, the jury pool has been poisoned and Defendants Oberlin College and Dr. Meredith Raimondo cannot receive a fair and impartial trial in Lorain County, Ohio.

Accordingly, Defendants respectfully request that this case be transferred without delay to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

The motion then goes on to detail the press coverage, and argues there we inaccuracies. That seems like thin gruel for the motion, as prospective jurors could be questioned on what they’ve seen in the media.

Oberlin then cites comments to the news articles as reflecting the local public mood, though it’s hard to tell from the comments how many were by local people, since the Gibson’s case received national media attention.

The initial reporting of the lawsuit swiftly turned the tide of public opinion within Lorain County against Oberlin College and Dr. Raimondo. Readers of local newspapers forcefully declared how they would rule in any trial. For example, the two daily Lorain County newspapers included these disturbing comments:

• “I hope Gibsons wins this lawsuit”;
• “The college, by their breach of contract, has punished Gibsons, . .. have, they punished any of the students involved, or did they just give them a hug?”;
• “Gatta go with a Jury Trial. .. Juries can multiply damages”;
• “They [Plaintiffs] should have asked for a LOT more”;
• “Good!! I hope the owners of the store win and win big-time”;
• “Hope they win … Take down the Clown College”; and
• “Hey Oberlin open up your wallet and dig deep.”

Oberlin also says it has been receiving negative messages:

In addition, Oberlin College received numerous voicemail messages that further evidence that the jury pool has become tainted. Specifically, the messages revealed that many citizens had improperly determined that Oberlin College was already liable for Plaintiffs’ claims:
• “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. You liberal, radical, disgusting human beings. I’m going to do everything in [my] power to gather as many people as I can to protest against you. You, you talk about racist. You guys are disgusting. You’re despicable. And I’m gonna gather as many people as I can to go out and boycott against you and your campus. You’re evil, evil, evil people. You should be ashamed of yourself.” (Message received on 12/9/2017)
• “I was figuring I’d get a recording and not an actual human. Not sure if there are any of those there at this college. But I’m calling concerning what was on the internet the other day. You need to get a paycheck but there are other students that have a little higher quality than apparently some of your students that you have now are. The thugs that attempted to do the stealing is [sic] in the wrong and for adult to be leader [sic] of a higher learning institution needs to realize what common sense is and not the black thugs. Thugs are thugs. Get’ em out of your college and let students that have some common sense and have some morals and won’t make America great can enter your school. It’s just ridiculous you backing thugs. I mean there’s just no reason why you should do that. They are clearly in the wrong.” (Message received on 12/9/2017)
• “I’m calling perhaps hopefully with many other people to express and actually a bit of sadness but certainly dissatisfaction the way Oberlin’s administration, faculty and students have treated a business who wanted some justice for theft. I can’t imagine any reason the college would support boycotting because someone was called on [sic] for theft of a store.” (Message received on 12/9/2017)

This all seems weak to me. Any high publicity case anywhere gets a lot of media coverage. It’s a high bar to hurdle to prove the jury pool has been so tainted that a fair trial cannot be had.

A bigger problem, though one that doesn’t require transfer, is that a large number of people in the local community will be excluded. Anyone with personal or family ties to Oberlin will be excluded. So too would anyone who knows the Gibson family or even shopped at the store.

There’s no reason that the remaining jury pool would be legally biased. The socio-economic profile of that remaining pool may not be favorable to Oberlin College, and may not appreciate the accusatory nature of Oberlin’s defense against a business that caught shoplifters. But that doesn’t require a change of venue.


Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College – Oberlin Motion to Transfer Venue by Legal Insurrection on Scribd


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Ruling Class v. Country Class (aka the jury pool),

or, How Dare These Plaintiffs Expect That We the Bien Pensants Are to be Judged by the Hoi Polloi

    pfg in reply to fscarn. | March 6, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Presenting your better, the eminent Dr. Meredith Raimondo,

    She has a doctorate in worthless nonsense, and is likely one of these high farters who insists you call her “Doctor,” but she’s not a real doctor. Real doctors – people who have MD or DDS after their names, or those who have doctorates in the hard sciences – are worthy of the title. Not the Raimondos of that favored romper room land called “Academia.”

    “Doctor” Raimondo has a bunch of degrees in Bullshitology; the PhD is in Piled High & Deep.

    Here’s her CV. To most of us it would be called a resume, but to high farters it’s a curriculum vitae (because you get to pile the stuff even higher and deeper),

    Read the rest of the nonsense yourself, but this paragraph which she wrote for the Oberlin website is so chic-chic with all the just-right buzz words and phrases, it’s worth highlighting,

    “As dean of students, Raimondo [she forgot the “Doctor;” how humble of her] will lead Oberlin’s Division of Student Life that supports students by creating more seamless connections between curricular and cocurricular experiences, advising and mentoring focused on the development of life skills and interpersonal and personal growth, and building and bridging intellectual and personal communities. She previously served as special assistant to the president for equity, inclusion, and diversity and Title IX coordinator.”

      Jackie in reply to pfg. | March 10, 2018 at 9:31 am

      I know a PhD who is a tenured professor of Psychology who wrote his thesis on why people who own their own businesses work harder than people who don’t own the businesses. He believes that this I was important original research. He is also a die hard liberal who has had a lucrative career spewing meaningless crap.

For a college to alienate the town in which it resides, it has to be especially obnoxious. Oberlin succeeded.

    fscarn in reply to puhiawa. | March 7, 2018 at 10:01 am

    A very worthwhile coming-of-age film, Breaking Away (1979), portrays the father of the main character as a down-to-earth, hard-working townie. His age is probably late 40s, early 50s, and his current work is that of selling used cars. But in his youth he was a limestone cutter in the local quarries, the quarries that supplied the stone for the U. of Indiana buildings in the town of Bloomington (a small town put on the map by the university).

    This part of the script sums up the town-gown edge. The scene has the father and son somewhere in the middle of the campus, just taking it all in.

    Father, I cut the stone for this building.
    Son, You did?
    Father, Yeah. I was one fine stone cutter. Mike’s dad, Moocher’s, Cyril’s, all of us. Well, Cyril’s dad- Never mind. Thing of it was, I loved it. I was young and slim and strong. I was damn proud of my work. And the buildings went up. When they were finished, the damnedest thing happened. It was like… the buildings was too good for us. Nobody told us [the townies, the common folk] that. Just- Just felt uncomfortable. That’s all. Even now, I- I’d like to be able, to stroll through the campus… and look at the limestone, but I just feel out of place.

It’s really disgusting how they try to turn shoplifting into an act of racism. Than they pretend that they had nothing to do with the attempted boycott.

I hope the judge in the case knocks down this motion.

It wasn’t the lawsuit that turned public opinion against Oberlin.

It was Oberlin’s (and its students’) despicable conduct that did that.

It couldn’t happen to a “nicer” bunch of sjw’s. Oberlin’s crybaby claim that they can’t get a fair trial is priceless.

Were they fair to the student who is suing them? Were they fair to the bakery? Declaring themselves and their holier-than-thou student mob attitude to be judge, jury and executioner has backfired. Their hypocrisy is transparent.

They constructed this bed of nails Let them lay down in it, while we savor the schadenfreude.

Oberlin just claimed the county it resides in is RACIST… lol at building community relations

tarheelkate | March 6, 2018 at 7:17 pm

Oberlin is reaping what it has sown. Chasing a shoplifter is racist? Seriously?

the other rob | March 6, 2018 at 7:21 pm

Let me get this straight. Assholes act like assholes, then complain that people who saw them acting like assholes think of them as assholes?

None of the above should be taken as in any way indicating that I do not support the right of assholes to a fair trial. Which, as the Prof has observed, they can get right there at home.

As my Dad used to say (frequently): “Maybe You should have thought of that before you did it.”

It would be great to see Oberlin go the way of Antioch – out of business.

Guess they will be having quite a garage sale of the contents of their art museum — supposedly one of the top five academic art collections in the US. They need to quit whining about their deficit — they have a huge nest egg in that museum, with plenty of pieces that would be very desirable to private collectors.

    rabidfox in reply to p1cunnin. | March 6, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    They may need that nest egg to pay off the defendants.

      B__2 in reply to rabidfox. | March 7, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      They might understand the true value of so many post-modern arts pieces is very low, despite their post-modern art ‘experts’ claimed valuation. A modern case of the Emperor’s New Clothes for the Art World.

Whaaaaa, sob, the citizens of Lorain County don’t like us! They must be racists.

karma’s a bitch

also know as getting hung by your own petard

K, Move the trial to Alabama. That’s far enough away that there won’t be any local prejudice.

Wait, there’s a phrase for this. Oberlin’s chickenssss have come home to roossssst!” Paraphrasing Obama’s pastor.

Just as an initial aside, Oberlin seems to be claiming that “a lie oft repeated becomes the truth.” They are actually suggesting that the the main tactic of the left is being used against them. I need to buy a new irony meter that goes to 11.

Anyhoo, I went there 40 years ago. What was true back then and is likely true today is that there is a distinct town and gown disparity, but, it is no different than town and gown in any other college town in America. Even the people in my neighborhood of East Moreland in Portland find the Reed students to be really annoying for the most part. I was in school when Animal House was released, where town and gown went to full-scale war, and it was funny because it was true. In effect, Oberlin seems to be complaining that they can’t get a fair trial because reality is against them.

And that is really what this is about, a reality check that they aren’t willing to accept. Anyone who got the alumni magazine over the last 10 years would come away convinced that Obama was the second coming of Christ. In a way I can see them having taken that level of empowerment to the point where they viewed themselves as apostles. But a bit over a year ago reality reared its ugly head, and all of this came about as a result of that change, which it seems they aren’t able to accept on any level. The legal issues here evolved from them seeing an explanation of the events being suitable as an excuse for those events. If something doesn’t go your way, then it is OK to loot and steal. And then righteously protest if anyone is arrested for that behavior, because in their eyes, the protest is just as justified as the initial infractions. One of my best lessons from Oberlin came just about 40 years ago to the day. In our intro poetry class, taught by a sabbatical replacement who had attended Oberlin in the late 60’s, a student complained that there just wasn’t enough activism for his tastes, like there was during the war. She then proceeded to rip him a new one, perhaps a few new ones. Her argument was that the level of protest is based on the level of crap going on, and if there is nothing happening on the protest front, it is a sign that things are going pretty good. During the war, people were being taken from class and sent to fight. Way different than whatever we had to deal with in the late 70’s, which was so minor that it escapes my mind at the moment. The Oberlin College community was really angry that the election didn’t go their way, and Gibson’s became the target of that anger. And what we have is a simple shoplifting case that will likely morph into a seven figure settlement, because there were no adults in the room. There is a simple explanation for why everyone chose to act the way that they did, but there is no excuse for that behavior, nor the continuous series of doubling-downs. Makes one wonder if “my bad” is on the list of not-allowed trigger words. We have evidence that “no” is an official trigger word. 😉

I don’t know how the trial will end, but I am pretty certain how the movie will spin these events.

Michael Haz | March 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Now Oberlin is worried about “fairness”?

Too late, sparky.

And welcome to the happy world of being treated like a falsely accused male in a Title IX kangaroo court.

    rabidfox in reply to Michael Haz. | March 7, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Except that I doubt that the court – regardless of its location – will be a kangaroo court as practiced by Oberlin against their own students.

In addition to the college in general and Raimondo in particular who are named in the suit, there have also been numerous inflammatory and potentially libelous/slanderous remarks made by students and student leaders who have chosen to jump on the bandwagon (join the mob). Am I right to assume that they too are still potentially liable for their comments?