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Oberlin College mass email criticizing Jurors could influence Punitive Damages Hearing in Gibson’s Bakery case

Oberlin College mass email criticizing Jurors could influence Punitive Damages Hearing in Gibson’s Bakery case

Publicly accusing jurors of disregarding “the clear evidence our team presented” when the trial is not over is another baffling move by Oberlin College.

There are a lot of things about the way Oberlin College handled the Gibson’s Bakery dispute and lawsuit that have had me wondering who, if anyone, is in control over there.

As mentioned numerous times, “from the start of this case I have questioned the aggressive and demeaning attacks on the Gibsons as a defense strategy,” and “I’m still shaking my head at the tone-deafness of the defense in belittling this family business.” The jury seems to have agreed, rendering a combined $11.2 million compensatory damages verdict against Oberlin College and its Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo.

The next stage is a punitive damages hearing, since the jury found the defendants acted with intent and malice. A separate punitive damages hearing is required under the Ohio Tort Reform legislation that passed several years ago. The point is to keep some of the more inflammatory evidence that does not go to liability or compensatory damages away from the jury during the initial deliberations. That additional evidence relevant to punitive damages could include information as to the wealth of the defendants, but also additional information supporting the need for punishment.

In this context, there is nothing more baffling than a statement sent to alumni after the verdict by Donica Thomas Varner, Oberlin College’s Vice President and General Counsel.

The statement was contained in a mass email sent to alumni (and possibly others) criticizing the jury verdict and repeating the same stale defenses that failed at trial (emphasis added):

Dear Members of the Oberlin Community:

I am writing to update you on the lawsuit that Gibson Bros., Inc. filed against Oberlin College and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas in November 2017.

Following a trial that spanned almost a full month, the jury found for the plaintiffs earlier today.

We are disappointed with the verdict and regret that the jury did not agree with the clear evidence our team presented.

Neither Oberlin College nor Dean Meredith Raimondo defamed a local business or its owners, and they never endorsed statements made by others. Rather, the College and Dr. Raimondo worked to ensure that students’ freedom of speech was protected and that the student demonstrations were safe and lawful, and they attempted to help the plaintiffs repair any harm caused by the student protests.

As we have stated, colleges cannot be held liable for the independent actions of their students. Institutions of higher education are obligated to protect freedom of speech on their campuses and respect their students’ decision to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Oberlin College acted in accordance with these obligations.

While we are disappointed with the outcome, Oberlin College wishes to thank the members of the jury for their attention and dedication during this lengthy trial. They contributed a great deal of time and effort to this case, and we appreciate their commitment.

Our team will review the jury’s verdict and determine how to move forward.

Donica Thomas Varner
Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary

Procedurally, the email is baffling because the trial is not over. The jury will hear more evidence and render a verdict on punitive damages that could add another $22 million to the $11 million compensatory. The objective of any communications at this sensitive stage must be to first do no harm. That’s how Scott Wargo, Oberlin’s spokesman, handled it when contacted by me and other media after the verdict, indicating the college had no comment on the jury verdict. Wargo’s statement was the professional response one would expect in this circumstance, so why are others at the college not heeding that basic corporate communications strategy?

Substantively, the email is infuriating to anyone who has followed the case. Oberlin College and Raimondo were not “held liable for the independent actions of their students.” Rather, the defendants were held liable for their own conduct in aiding and abetting the publication of libelous documents, interference with business, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Let me repeat, it was the college’s and Raimondo’s own conduct that was at issue before the jury. That the General Counsel of Oberlin College doesn’t understand that — even if she disagrees with the jury conclusion — tells me something went very wrong with the way this case was handled internally at Oberlin College.

Varner began serving as Oberlin College’s Acting General Counsel on June 5, 2017, and was appointed General Counsel in March 2018. Prior to that, she spent 15 years in the General Counsel’s Office at the University of Michigan. This means that while she was not at Oberlin College when the protests took place, she was General Counsel starting several months before the lawsuit was filed in November 2017. Given her position, she likely would have been the administrator at Oberlin College overseeing outside counsel’s handling of the case. Depending on what her role was in overseeing the failed litigation (effectively, she was the “client”), she may not be the best person to be involved in communications strategy post-verdict.

I saw this phenomenon when I was in private practice representing employees against securities firms, which usually had in-house counsel involved in termination decisions. When the in-house counsel who advised as to termination also showed up overseeing the litigation, I knew there were going to be problems because that person had an interest in defending his or her own termination advice, rather than providing a cold, disinterested litigation assessment.

We would have to know more about Varner’s involvement in overseeing the litigation. But if she was the key point person at the college as to the litigation strategy, she may not be the right person to handle corporate communications.

Someone with such deep experience as Varner should have known better than to send out such a statement in the middle of trial, particularly on the cusp of a punitive damages hearing. I understand the college felt the need to say something, but first do no harm. Simply send out a mass email, since alumni were going to hear about the verdict through the news, indicating that the college cannot comment since the trial is ongoing, and that more information will be provided after the trial is over. Or express a vague regret at the verdict and respect for the jurors.

But for heaven’s sake, don’t make things worse.

Don’t accuse the jurors of disregarding the “clear evidence,” don’t repeat the same failed claim that the college administrators were simply keeping the peace and protecting free speech when numerous witnesses testified otherwise, and don’t claim the college was held liable vicariously when in fact the college’s own conduct was at issue.

The post-verdict email could be Exhibit A at the punitive damages hearing as to why the compensatory damages are not sufficient to send a message to Oberlin College and its administrators. Whether it will be an exhibit we’ll find out on Tuesday.

[Featured Image: Four generations of Gibson Family after Verdict][Photo Credit: Legal Insurrection Foundation]


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“Could” influence?
I hope it “does” influence!

    Andy in reply to herm2416. | June 9, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    I don’t know the rules of evidence if this will be allowed in, but WOW. I mean WOW. The way this is playing out, it is as if someone on the plaintiff’s team were working on the inside at the college to do everything in the worst possible way to maximize the payout.

    They must have a think-tank asking: What’s the right thing to do at this juncture? ok- now let’s do the exact opposite.

    Seriously- even the Erin Brokovich movie wasn’t this over the top in stupid decisions by the giant villain.

Progressives learn nothing and so they allow bewilderment to govern them. Thus they double down by insulting the jurors. Maybe even to the point of seeking out jurors for “wrongthink”.

    Neo in reply to Whitewall. | June 9, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    It’s really hard to tame the righteous.

    unsheepled in reply to Whitewall. | June 10, 2019 at 10:11 am

    The people of the lie will never ever,stop .Its not in their nature .The SWJ Army zombies are just that …zombies .they know NOTHING else.They never help anyone, they only seek to harm .

As Oberlin digs themselves into an even deeper hole, clearly they are stealing from Elizabeth Warren’s playbook!

Bitterlyclinging | June 9, 2019 at 10:15 am

The Left is above the law. Always
Whether its altering the transcript of John Dowd’s call to General Mike Flynn’s attorneys to make it fit the Obstruction narrative, dismissing the charges against Jussie Smollet, or selling 20 per cent of the US’s uranium supplies to the Russkies, the Left can never do anything wrong.
And how about that 500 million dollar shipment in unmarked foreign currencies aboard a midnight flight on a chartered commercial jet to the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism. Crickets for a response! That was a hoot, wasnt it?

Varner is black. Therefore, I guess, she has the doubled burden of defending SJW idiocy AND claiming white supremacy by making a fool of herself in ways that very well may damage the (pathetic excuse for a) university further.

When you say Varner has “deep experience”, I beg to differ, and would point out that she has almost no practical real world legal experience at all. She’s spent her entire career wrapped up in the higher education bubble, and as such her only experience is that of being a loyal member of Ruling Clique, being the one who designates which flunky of hers will fill out the necessary legal forms whenever one is called for. I’d say she’s very good at sucking up to her bosses and massaging the ego’s of her fellow clique members, but actual Legal Experience? She doesn’t have any at all.

And that explains this email perfectly – she has not the faintest idea of what would have a good move legally, because she’s totally incompetent in that area (evidence: The Letter) but she DOES know what all her fellow administrators wanted to hear, so that’s what she wrote.

And this is how a ship goes down with all its flags flying and all hands on board.

    pfg in reply to Tom Servo. | June 9, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    Here’s her extremely puffed-up bio,

    Here’s how Oberlin describes her,

    And if you had any doubt as to her Jack Handy-like Deep Thoughts, read her Q&A on Constitution Day,

    Here’s the line telling the world that she’s nothing but a rock-ribbed lefty non-thinker, “I believe that the Constitution is a living document that should reflect our times, our norms, and what matters to us as everyday citizens.”

    Aside, are “everyday citizens” different from holiday or Sunday-best citizens?

      Dave in reply to pfg. | June 9, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      She’s exactly the type that Obummer appointed to the federal bench.

      Vladtheimp in reply to pfg. | June 9, 2019 at 7:30 pm

      I suspect her experience in “crisis management and incident response teams” had to do with covering up her own messes – as unsuccessful as a cat burying its turd in a marble floor in this case. Will she next run for office supported by Soros, claim she won the litigation a la Stacy Abrams, or will she be a distinguished professor at Harvard, Yale, or Georgetown Law?

      paracelsus in reply to pfg. | June 10, 2019 at 11:19 am

      Wow! And some mastermind in the Oberlin admin actually hired her?

    puhiawa in reply to Tom Servo. | June 9, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    My advice to clients is never speak to the press prior to trial (and I do not), never speak to the press during trial, and never brag after trial because the appeal will be coming.

    ugottabekiddinme in reply to Tom Servo. | June 9, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    As a lawyer of 41 years so far, and with plenty of trial experience, this comment a thousand times upvoted ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

JusticeDelivered | June 9, 2019 at 10:38 am

It was amazing how stupid Oberlin College was in leaving so much damning evidence of their actions. Even after having their paddies slapped, they still are in denial.

SJWs always double down. That is also the title of a book whose author is in arbitration likely to wreck IndieGogo because of similar “We’re on a diversity mission from heaven” hubris.
I was only half shocked to hear about the interference with their insurance company.
This also only half surprises me.
Predition: Oberlin will do something more stupid and worse for their own side before it is over.

CaptYossarian | June 9, 2019 at 10:43 am

IF Oberlin had an independent board of directors, which it does not, and IF Oberlin had an objective, apolitical president, which it does not, Ms. Varner would be fired. Her email was ill-timed and ill-considered. Any lawyer with common sense would know better than to send such a communication before the trial judge concludes the case.

    Tom Servo in reply to CaptYossarian. | June 9, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    It’s a wonderful object lesson in how failing institutions destroy themselves – IF they had an effective board (but instead they have politically correct yes-men) and IF they had a an effective President (but they have a spineless SJW) and so together, they hire an incompetent clown for an absolutely vital position, so of course she fails in every important decision, because what do you expect an incomptent clown who’s built a career by pretending to be a lawyer do?

    But everyone else in the organization is as incompetent as she is, so they all tell themselves how “smart” they are and how unfair the world is to them. And they lose every time, and have no idea why, and will never change their tactics because bluntly put, they are just too incredibly stupid to even realize they are doing anything wrong.

      MajorWood in reply to Tom Servo. | June 9, 2019 at 7:26 pm

      Sadly, I agree with you. And I’m not joking when I compare some of this to Chernobyl. Only two of the faculty were willing to discuss a different view of things, and they were both emeritus/retired. I bet it will be a different story though when faculty positions and cutbacks start to happen because the SJW leaders were out of control.

Bullies simply decide an outcome. It is not negotiable. If you don’t “get it,” maybe it is because the bully was not clear. Thus, the bully pushes harder.

Sociopaths do not engage in self examination because it is not possible for them to make an error unless it is tactical, such as not using enough force.

Oberlin’s behavior makes perfect sense to a sociopath. Only a reasonable person would ask WTF? Assuming the Oberlin attorneys have a clue, Oberlin would not be the first client to ignore the advice of counsel, would they?

It may be that Oberlin is convinced they will win on appeal and decided to publicly urinate on the jurors in a fit of temper.

    artichoke in reply to Recovering Lutheran. | June 9, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Or to make it look like the jury award of punitive damages is a reaction to such urination, rather than to the facts of the case — when Oberlin expected a large punitive award even if they had acted super-nice after the compensatory damages verdict.

    I don’t think Oberlin can be confident of winning on appeal. Or even to have much of a chance at all of it.

      Tom Servo in reply to artichoke. | June 9, 2019 at 5:40 pm

      Oberlin’s legal team may just be realizing that since this is a State Law Case, they’re stuck with the State Appeals system – no chance of getting this in front of a friendly Federal judge.

      Their chances of overturning this are very, very low. Jury awards, if based on any evidence at all (and Gibson’s provided that evidence) usually stand unless there was an Error of Law made by the Judge hearing the case. And I haven’t seen one of those.

        Don’t underestimate the willingness of the Federal judiciary to interject itself in this case no matter what the Constitution and the law says. I fully expect some Federal judge from Hawaii to toss out the judgement against Oberlin on the grounds of “fairness” (the all purpose excuse of the totalitarians-in-black-robes).

This is why I express concern over what is happening to the term “anti-Semitism”.

This case is about when the term “racism” becomes over broad and over used and those who want to fight the actual evil find there isn’t really enough supply (are there any KKK in Oberlin), they keep stretching the definition to the point that calling the police on shoplifters, if they are black, is deemed a “racist” act. The mob didn’t care they are shoplifters, Gibsons’s must be racist, and the College joined in the holy cause. Because it is a holy cause, you can’t use reason and evidence.

The other thing this week was the VoxAdpocalypse where Crowder but also thousands of others were deplatformed.

The fear I have is that if I were to say “I don’t think it was prudent for Trump to have recognized the annexation of the Golan heights”, which is a debatable point of foreign policy, instead of getting arguments against my position trying to convince me otherwise, instead I might be called an anti-Semite, white supremacist, etc. and an Oberlin style hate mob will be stirred up against me as if I was calling for genocide.

Those at Oberlin aren’t stupid, but we can all be blinded when a cause ceases to be reasonably right but becomes a holy crusade unto itself. You don’t try to reason with heretics, you burn them at the stake or stone them to death.

    DaveGinOly in reply to tz. | June 9, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    Heretics must be burned and stoned because they have winning arguments and must be silenced – permanently – in order to preserve the status quo or to advance a dearly and fervently held, but wrong-headed, belief.

    DanJ1 in reply to tz. | June 9, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Remembering back to when MSNBC claimed that the “Chicago” is racist. It’s going to be a long time until we recover from the identity politics damage done by Obama. This case is just another step in the healing process. Tough love for the Leftist institutions, I guess.

    artichoke in reply to tz. | June 9, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    When a Jew caught shoplifting claims an anti-semitism defense, and the trial becomes a big SJW cause because that Jew was supposedly discriminated against — let me know.

    In the meantime, you’re conflating two totally different things. The Golan Heights are needed for defensive reasons.

      Milhouse in reply to artichoke. | June 16, 2019 at 1:20 am

      It does happen. Often because there is an antisemitic element to the prosecution of suspects who happen to be Jewish. But sometimes because someone perceives such an element where it doesn’t exist. And sometimes it’s hard to tell, or depends on your point of view. When a suspect is treated unusually harshly, or there is prosecutor misconduct, is it because the suspect is Jewish, or just because the prosecutor is a hard*** or unethical, and would have treated anyone else the same way?

      Case in point: Would the Rosenbergs have been executed, had they not been Jewish? I don’t know. I’d like to think they would, but I can’t dismiss the contrary view out of hand.

      And then there’s the blatant exploitation, such as recent claims that any attack on George Soros — or even on Tom Steyer, who isn’t even Jewish! — is antisemitic. That’s ridiculous, but it’s what the other side is putting up as cover for its own, genuine, antisemitism.

    Neo in reply to tz. | June 9, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    Racism is now any action by those who are powerful (read White) over any disenfranchised group (read [fill in the blank]).

This Varney idiot is a classic example of the affirmative action cult in operation. As a female of the Hamitic persuasion, she has floated upwards without having a functioning brain at work. Ain’t diversity a gas?

Wow, if these guys are truly that dumb, maybe they shouldn’t even have a college.

Most fundamentally, it’s a conflict of interest. Even Oberlin’s president ought to be able to see it. They’re all in.

    DanJ1 in reply to maxmillion. | June 9, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    There is an old saying: An attorney who represents himself (or in this case, her own employer), has a fool for a client.

      terrence22 in reply to DanJ1. | June 9, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      “There is an old saying: An attorney who represents himself (or in this case, her own employer), has a fool for a client.”

      I have heard another part to it: and an ass for a lawyer

    artichoke in reply to maxmillion. | June 9, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Their new president, Ambar, probably brought her in as a part of her team.

      MajorWood in reply to artichoke. | June 9, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      More likely she was brought in by recent former president Krislov since they overlapped in the general counsel office at Michigan.

      The problem now is that Oberlin has likely reigned in tight controls over the dissemination of information. I read on another site that they had taken control of the Oberlin alumni facebook page. The national MSM blackout is certainly suspicious. So for 95% of the alumni, they will only see Varner’s side of the story and they are likely counting on that. But, it could get out, and then backfire big. As has been pointed out here, the older 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s alumni know of a Gibsons whose image hasn’t been corrupted by the current generation. I recently speculated that this year’s 25Y reunion donation would be the lowest in recent history if the facts about the college and Gibsons were made known to the alumni over the weekend.

        artichoke in reply to MajorWood. | June 9, 2019 at 6:12 pm

        I think word will filter through to a lot of alums before long.

        It’ll probably hit the various pages dealing with college admissions, and the Oberlin specific ones for example on College Confidential and Reddit. Then word will filter out into high schools. I exppect total applications and application quality will be down.

        paracelsus in reply to MajorWood. | June 10, 2019 at 11:33 am

        “reigned in”? best check your “SpellCheck”

Oh my word!!! The inmates are running the asylum at Oberlin College Cottage for the Interminably Insane.

I must be a racist because I’ve allowed my watch to be in black face for twenty years. What a bunch of asses.

“Stupid is as stupid does” — Mrs. Gump..

Proof that you can still have a doctorate and be a functional idiot.

“Stupid is as stupid does” — Mrs. Gump..

Proof that you can still have a doctorate and be a functional idiot.

Could we assume the jury isn’t sequestered?

legalbeagle | June 9, 2019 at 11:47 am

I wonder what the original letter looked like before it was toned down? “Oberlin deeply resents being judge by a jury of local people” perhaps?

    alaskabob in reply to legalbeagle. | June 9, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Any jury not woke is an incompetent jury in their minds. This confirms the “great unwashed” live around them and justified their actions against Gibsons. I have a difficult time trying to understand their thought processes but the again I have the same problem with cockroaches…

An institution of “higher learning / education” ???

I believe we are seeing the intersection of “Birds of a feather flock together” and the “Intellectual Yet Idiot” where this mindset captured the leadership of Oberlin by way of evicting anybody who did not share it, until at last we have this disaster.

As GC, you should never allow yourself to be quoted. You aren’t supposed to be the voice of the client, but instead its legal adviser. She could actually be called to the stand as a result of this e-mail.

Oberlin 1983 | June 9, 2019 at 12:17 pm

The President of the Board of Trustees is the Director of Global Policy Management of the Soros Foundation. Not sure that he would have a problem with the way the Administration has handled this affair.

If you like SJW baffle-speak, the Oberlin Alumni Magazine official columns are good.

But I’m fond of Spring 2015 where Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ’92 is introduced, shortly before the Baltimore riots. Baffle-speak is very vulnerable to bad timing.

    alaskabob in reply to rhhardin. | June 9, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    Very glossy and revealing titles for stories. A side being on the front cover of Oberlin a death knell like Sports Illustrated (regular not swinsuit(less))?

    MajorWood in reply to rhhardin. | June 9, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    My all-time OAM favorite stpry was the head of the violence prevention center who called Bill Clinton the greatest gun control president ever. Really? The reaction to AWB94 was another 10M+ black rifles in the hands of the citizenry, and a grass roots operation which first purged congress of 100 democrats and then went on to pass CHL laws in at least 25 states. Yeah, he was some gun control president alright. And amazingly, I think even more guns were sold during Obama than Clinton. In contrast, dealers went out of business and gun shows disappeared under Bush. Someone really needs to explain the concept of unintended consequences to the Dems.

smalltownoklahoman | June 9, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Wow! *sigh* Well like I said over in the comments on the verdict post: National example of how NOT to handle things! If that letter gets entered into evidence for the punitive damages Oberlin is pretty much sunk!

Concise background on Gibsons my Michelle Malkin ’88, just to mention an alumna on the right.

You would think, even for a group of anti gun Leftists, shooting yourself in the foot would be a bit more difficult. Probably results of insulated tenure types operating among themselves indefinitely.

Oberlin 1983 | June 9, 2019 at 12:51 pm

I don’t think there is any chance that the Oberlin of the early 1980s would have handled things this way. When I was there, Gibson’s was beloved and people thought a five-generation bakery was kind of cool.

Now, I feel like this longevity is, itself, suspicious in the minds of “woke” campus members. Instead of being a positive, this longevity is evidence of privilege and a connection to an old America.

The messages and emails introduced at the trial, as well as testimony, show the deep contempt that certain faculty and administrators now have for Gibson’s. The same contempt is revealed in editorials in the Oberlin Review (the student newspaper). They really don’t give a damn about destroying the bakery or the Gibson family. So, they are unsympathetic to the pervasive shoplifting and ignore five years of arrest records showing that the great majority of shoplifters arrested were white (and students).

    alaskabob in reply to Oberlin 1983. | June 9, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    “History” stands in the way of progressive thought. It must be controlled to only let progressive success be reaffirmed. Since there is so little success, if any, history is against them. There are different rules for different classes. An “established” “white” business must have suppressed minorities at sometime. Allowance must be made for the underprivileged that were excluded. If Gibson’s had been Asian what a knee jerk would have occurred.

    Oberlin is too far gone and too hostile to be a legitimate college under present circumstances. Indoctrination camp..yes. Any classes on bomb making, sabotage,and mayhem yet or just extracurricular at this time?

    Mike H. in reply to Oberlin 1983. | June 9, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    “this longevity is evidence of privilege and a connection to an old America.”

    A privilege they claim for themselves and a connection that doesn’t exist because life started when they were born?

    Milhouse in reply to Oberlin 1983. | June 16, 2019 at 1:29 am

    Now, I feel like this longevity is, itself, suspicious in the minds of “woke” campus members. Instead of being a positive, this longevity is evidence of privilege and a connection to an old America.

    Good point. Gibson’s was around in Olden Times, so it probably had slaves. And burned witches.

counsel4pay | June 9, 2019 at 12:53 pm

Ohio’s punitive damages statute appears to be here:

I am prompted to refrain from any legal commentary from this point on.

Rather, I continue to commend (1) Judge Miraldi for his even handed and, even inspired, management of this action; (2) applaud and thank the JURY for its labors to discern truth from deceit and strive, with much labor, for a just result;(3) Plaintiffs’ counsel, whose skill and experience I can only observe with a sense of awe; and (4) Plaintiffs, their family, friends, and supporters for having the courage of their convictions and the patience and faith to trust our Republic’s heaven sent system of justice.

I still implore the Almighty, the God of our Fathers, that He will continue to provide keen insight to judge and jury and solace to the victims of Oberlin’s perfidy. In this regard, I feel humbled and encouraged that I am merely one of MANY WELL WISHERS who have heretofore, and will hereafter, petition Heaven for further justice for a noble family which has suffered so much.

    artichoke in reply to counsel4pay. | June 9, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    A couple points of interest from the statute:

    (1) The actions or omissions of that defendant demonstrate malice or aggravated or egregious fraud, or that defendant as principal or master knowingly authorized, participated in, or ratified actions or omissions of an agent or servant that so demonstrate.

    (The actions discussed in the compensatory damages trial showed malice. But could this new letter, misrepresenting the facts and findings in the case so far, represent also fraud?)

    (4) In a tort action, the burden of proof shall be upon a plaintiff in question, by clear and convincing evidence, to establish that the plaintiff is entitled to recover punitive or exemplary damages.

    (So clear and convincing evidence is needed, not preponderance of evidence, a higher standard)

“Oberlin College: hostile, vindictive, and obtuse are the ideals we seek for all our students. Join us.”

Mission statement fail.

Quickly, Oberlin College is part of American Academia. As such, it CAN NOT admit that it was wrong. Why? Because, like just about every other liberal arts institute of higher learning in this country, it is composed of Progressives. And, progressives have always been the biggest, elitist bigots in the world. Can you guess what the biggest export of liberal arts colleges is? Collectivist, socialist, communist and libertarian social theory. The common denominator? Extreme theoretical equality. The huge irony is that colleges are quite possibly the most stratified, totalitarian institutions on the planet. A very small group, professors and administrators, exercise near dictatorial control on a much large population, the students. And, the students go along with it. Even worse, after 100 years of progressive domination of academia, it has seeped deeply into the fabric of American society.

In the case of Oberlin College, the students and administration saw the election of Donald Trump is a direct attack on their world. An independent pragmatist was elected as President by populists. He would bring a world where populist desires would undermine the dictatorial control of the elite. When three of the Oberlin tribe were arrested at the behest of a business owned by locals, it was viewed as the logical outcome of populist control. That the Oberlin students were black and the owners of the store were white either meant that racism was involved, or presented a convenient excuse. The populist uprising had to be quashed and elitist control reestablished.

However, Oberlin College was wrong. Its worldview is strikingly different from that of the rest of America. But, to accept responsibility for its actions, Oberlin College would have to accept that that its elitist Progressive belief system was wrong. It simply can not do that. It will simply retreat behind the walls of its castle on the hill and refuse to acknowledge reality. And, it will actively seek the support and approval of its peer group to shore up the collapsing foundations of its world.

Only someone who was delusional would have become involved in the Gibson’s boycott to begin with. Only a delusional idiot would have allowed the case to get to court. And only a completely delusional idiot would refuse to realize that he had lost the fight and should probably cut his losses. But, that is Progressives for you.

    Barry in reply to Mac45. | June 9, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Excellent Mac!

    MajorWood in reply to Mac45. | June 9, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Mac used “delusional” 3 times in a paragraph so he wins the “compare Oberlin vs Gibsons trial to Chernobyl” contest.

    Honu in reply to Mac45. | June 10, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    So true. The MSM, colleges, and politicians are all versions of the same complex. All they have is their blather – they are self-impressed with their brilliance. I hope the jury sends a bigger message next.

    Honu in reply to Mac45. | June 10, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    So true. The MSM, colleges, and politicians are all versions of the same complex. All they have is their blather – they are self-impressed with their brilliance. I hope the jury sends a bigger message next.

Gremlin1974 | June 9, 2019 at 1:08 pm

It’s not really that surprising, when you consider that your typical leftist has the emotional and mental maturity of somewhere between toddler and middle schooler.

It’s not a baffling letter. She’s just restating her position on what the situation is.

Legal niceties are another matter, but the letter makes sense to an ordinary person. She may be delusional but not a bad person.

Her beliefs are more important to her, and probably she’s not very competent outside of an environment tuned to praise her feelings.

Going after Gibsons was what marked a bad person. Believe what you want but leave non-believers alone.

    Tom Servo in reply to rhhardin. | June 9, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    first of all, describing people as a “bad person” or a “good person” is infantile, which is probably why leftists love to do it; but in her letter, she repeated at least 3 bald faced lies which are not “opinions” but now directly contradict the findings of a Court of Law – so if I was to use that childish terminology, I’d have to say that Varner is absolutely a “bad person’.

    But personally, I’m more comfortable with describing her as an incompetent buffoon who by rights should never have had a job higher than changing the sheets at a local hotel.

    Isolden in reply to rhhardin. | June 9, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    I think the point most are making is that it was extremely detrimental to her cause to issue a letter such as this; that it will influence a punitive damages trial and ultimately, not serve the college well. I don’t think anyone here is saying she is not drinking the kool-aid. I think most ppl are saying that the average juror is not drinking the same kool-aid and it will have an impact on punitives.

      Tom Servo in reply to Isolden. | June 9, 2019 at 11:32 pm

      Yes, as you say – and what’s even worse is that ANY lawyer with even a shred of common sense would be screaming at his clients “Don’t Say Anything Publicly! Not while the Trial is still going!!!!”

      Varner, as General Counsel was supposed to KNOW that, she was supposed to be the one telling everyone else not to do that! And so the first thing she jumps out and does is the thing that she was hired to tell everyone not to do – say stupid things in public which catastrophically damage the School’s legal standing.

    rochf in reply to rhhardin. | June 10, 2019 at 10:59 am

    Actually, that letter doesn’t make any sense coming from the General Counsel who, quite frankly, should know better. It isn’t even factually correct–I don’t care what fairy tale they’re telling the world, Dean Raimondo clearly participated in the incident on behalf of Oberlin College, called the bakery racist without any reason to do so (other than appeasing the students), and then got up on the stand and lied her head off.

    No attorney who has a clue about how these things work would ever come out and make a public statement like this while the trial was going on–unless you’re Michael Avenetti, or apparently, the general counsel for Oberlin College.

Is Oberlin College an Institute of Higher Learning or a very large, very expensive nuthouse where the inmates are in charge?

    artichoke in reply to SeniorD. | June 9, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Definitely parts of the latter. The question is whether there’s much “higher learning” to qualify as the former.

amatuerwrangler | June 9, 2019 at 1:42 pm

A bit tangential to this post, re the original “Verdict” post. I have not kept up with the 230-odd (and counting) comments, but some of them have left me a bit confused. Here goes:

It was stated that Riamondo was not found culpable for the action against the bakery and the resulting loss of revenue; I have not seen all the verdict paper work, so it may be answered there. I recall from the daily recaps of the trial that an employee of Bon Appetite, the food service contractor (AKA Bob Appetite) that BA was happy with the service and product provided by Gibson’s and only “fired” them because Riamondo told them to, “we don’t do business with people suing us.” I would see this as Riamondo having a direct part in the economic damage done to Gibson’s, and possible muddying the separation between the college and the food service provider, the “agency question” that came up in those “Verdict” comments. I’m left wondering how the jury might have absolved her with this testimony in front of them.

Maybe someone with actual legal knowledge could clarify this point, or point to the area of the original comments/post where this was explained.

Who are those people in the photo? A cutline would be a big help.

    Liz in reply to Sabrina81. | June 9, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    They are four generations of the Gibsons – the two older ones were awarded damages, as well as teh business itself.

    Kiwi King in reply to Sabrina81. | June 9, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    In the photo are four generations of Gibsons. (1) On the left is Dave Gibson, co-owner of the bakery with his father, Allyn W. Gibson; (2) next to Dave is his son, Allyn D. Gibson, who was working the cash register when the student tried to buy alcohol with a fake ID; Allyn D. is the one who chased after him and was pinned down and hit by the perpetrator and two female students; (3) next is Allyn W. Gibson, Dave’s father and Allyn D.’s grandfather, now age 91. (4) The boy beside him is Cashlyn Gibson, age 11, Allyn D.’s son who gets up at 4:00 a.m. on weekends to work in the bakery. The torch is to be passed on to him eventually. 

The stupid is strong in Oberlin.

LeftWingLock | June 9, 2019 at 2:10 pm

A couple of days ago, in the article on damages, I commented that while IMO Oberlin would never give up their “woke” status, they were at least smart enough to be more subtle in the future. I withdraw my comment entirely. This type of behavior is what insane people do.

It’s not a baffling letter. She’s just restating her position on what the situation is.

“Legal niceties are another matter, but the letter makes sense to an ordinary person. She may be delusional but not a bad person.

Her beliefs are more important to her, and probably she’s not very competent outside of an environment tuned to praise her feelings.

Going after Gibsons was what marked a bad person. Believe what you want but leave non-believers alone.”

This isn’t about legal niceties – as a lawyer, you don’t do what she just did – at least not as an in-house lawyer. The letter should have been penned by their head of PR/Communications – and said something quite generic – we are exploring our options, we are disappointed in the outcome, and are committed to continuing our history as being a valued member of the Oberlin community – or something similar. You don’t criticize the jury, basically saying they didn’t pay attention, particularly when the penalty phase isn’t over.

LeftWingLock | June 9, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Will the plaintiffs, either directly or indirectly, be able to get this letter into evidence during the punitive damages phase?

    MajorWood in reply to LeftWingLock. | June 9, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Varner cc:’d them.

    Early on I knew where all of this was headed because I knew how these people thought. My mistake though was thinking that I knew them from having attended Oberlin. It turns out, after we read through step 4 this morning in my literature group, that I knew them through 12-step recovery. I remember thinking back in November 2016 how a little 10th step work would make this all go away. Simple, easy, poof. But since they aren’t in the recovery mindset, they went the opposite way, again and again. In fact, it is much worse, because I honestly don’t even see them close to acknowledging step 1 here. They are like the guy asking his drinking buddies if they think he has a problem. They are still in the “what it was like” phase and unfortunately the Gibsons trial appears to not be the “what happened” incident which causes things to make a turn for the better.

Big Week for LI. I see links in many major blogs such as Weasel Zippers, Hot Air, etc. to the Oberlin story. Likewise news aggregators. And even other legal blogs such as Powerline. All of them crediting LI for the coverage and analysis.

    puhiawa in reply to puhiawa. | June 9, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    American Thinker, by Clarice Fekdman
    “If you want to follow a legal battle by someone who knows what he’s talking about, you could not do better than reading Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson’s website. For some time now he’s been documenting the lawsuit filed by Gibson’s Bakery, a five-generation family bakery near Oberlin College that was boycotted based on false claims of racism after they had several students arrested for shoplifting, a crime to which the students pled guilty.”
    American Thinker is an important conservative essay and news commentary site.

Well, at least Oberlin stayed with their diversity lawyer. Live by… die by. The could have gone out and hired a white male (maybe even Jewish) lawyer that was competent but, no… we are going to bitterly cling to our diversity commitment no matter what.

“[T]he jury found the defendants acted with intent and malice.” If that includes defendant Raimondo, and if the jury imposes punitive damages on her, does Ohio law preclude her from being reimbursed for punitive damages?

    SDN in reply to Rick. | June 9, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Reimbursed by who, is the question. By Oberlin College? Probably not; to the extent the verdict confirms her being an agent of the college, it probably gives her a claim that reimbursement is required. She may have to sue them to get it, which will be entertaining.

    However, what you are more likely to see is the same thing we saw with the Kavanaugh accusers: “private” GoFundMe setups that can use automated bots to funnel the money to her in ways that evade disclosure.

      Rick in reply to SDN. | June 9, 2019 at 4:24 pm

      In many jurisdictions it is against public policy to have insurance or indemnity for punitive damages.

SJW lack self-awareness. Their reaction to the verdict is predictable of a class of people that can’t imagine an opinion that isn’t their own being valid.

Comanche Voter | June 9, 2019 at 3:50 pm

I looked at her bio/resume. High school in Belgium, so she’s probably from a military family. If she was a sergeant’s daughter she’d be more aware of things and real life than she seems to be. Off to U North Carolina for political science–and that some 20 or 25 years ago. The stupid wasn’t so strong in academia in those days. U Michigan law school–where a friend of mine probably had her in a class. A bit of practice in labor law firms in Detroit–then off to academia as in house counsel. Supposedly she made trial and appellate appearances for one university. I suspect that simply meant that her name was include on the briefs and appeals.

But I don’t think she’s done the rough and tumble in the real legal world and/or before a trial judge or jury. She’s an attractive black woman and in corporate law today that’s a ticket to rise swiftly–and maybe beyond your competence level. Appearance does matter–ask Joe Biden about Obama “he’s a clean articulate black man” etc.

    hrhdhd in reply to Comanche Voter. | June 9, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Tiny clarification: she went to NCSU, not UNC; the former is less left-leaning than the latter, and would have been 20 years ago.

Oberlin 1983 | June 9, 2019 at 3:55 pm

The General Counsel, at a certain point, has to trust the strategy of trial counsel. I wouldn’t blame the General Counsel, except perhaps for failing to settle the case before trial. Her race is immaterial.

The trial had a lot of very bad facts that the defense had to overcome. Being in an ideological bubble, the administration couldn’t appreciate how bad the facts were, especially the comments showing the contempt for the Gibsons and, by extension, the community from which the jurors would be drawn.

Oberlin 1983 | June 9, 2019 at 3:55 pm

The General Counsel, at a certain point, has to trust the strategy of trial counsel. I wouldn’t blame the General Counsel, except perhaps for failing to settle the case before trial. Her race is immaterial.

The trial had a lot of very bad facts that the defense had to overcome. Being in an ideological bubble, the administration couldn’t appreciate how bad the facts were, especially the comments showing the contempt for the Gibsons and, by extension, the community from which the jurors would be drawn.

    Jackie in reply to Oberlin 1983. | June 9, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I just don’t get why Oberlin didn’t settle? They were facing a jury of local people who probably couldn’t stand the woke college people. Gibson’s, which is in financial trouble, probably would have been overjoyed to get $500,000. Oberlin went in with a scorched earth policy of demeaning the business and not giving an inch.

      Because settling would have meant admitting they were *wrong* (See Mac’s comment above)

      A true SJW cannot admit they were wrong on anything. It is always somebody else’s fault. Oberlin seems intent on riding this crazy train right down into bankruptcy court as the value of their diplomas plummet, their costs skyrocket, and the few sane students they have depart.

    Jackie in reply to Oberlin 1983. | June 9, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I just don’t get why Oberlin didn’t settle? They were facing a jury of local people who probably couldn’t stand the woke college people. Gibson’s, which is in financial trouble, probably would have been overjoyed to get $500,000. Oberlin went in with a scorched earth policy of demeaning the business and not giving an inch.

    Varner and Raimondo need to look no further than the mirror for what happened here. Are you seriously saying that Oberlin and Varner had no say in the defense? More likely incompetence born from hubris. Will you donate to the litigation recovery fund?

Oberlin 1983 | June 9, 2019 at 4:10 pm

But, if there is any blowback from her email, that is all on her.

theduchessofkitty | June 9, 2019 at 4:14 pm

Are you serious?!? They seem to forget this whole thing isn’t over yet. The jurors may well find out about this, and may well respond by giving Oberlin a massive serving of crow.

Reminds me of the arrogance displayed twenty years ago or so when the counsel and PR arm of McDonald’s acted in such an arrogant way before a jury in the case of the old lady who burned herself in McD’s hot coffee – you know, the one in which she was awarded an outrageous sum in the millions. McD’s arrogance, not her actual burn injuries, was the catalyst for the jury’s response: it all left a horrible taste in the mouths of the jurors, who then decided the biggest burger-seller in the world needed a truck-full of humble pie.

And humble pie, they gave McD’s. (Of course, it was all reduced on appeal, but you get the point.)

    artichoke in reply to theduchessofkitty. | June 9, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    So McD’s damages were reduced … because it truly was an insane verdict.

    What if that’s Oberlin’s plan now, to make the jury look like it’s overreaching on punitive damages?

    Recall that many of us thought there would be large punitive damages already, post-verdict, pre-letter. What if Oberlin put this letter out there to make it look like the punitive damages are the fault of their lawyers, or an in-house lawyer, unrelated to the facts of the case?

    I wouldn’t put it past them. The left is sometimes stupid, but they like to look stupid even when it’s a ruse.

Sounds like Oberlin can benefit from some “You’re fired” applied to their ‘leadership’.

No wonder they demand safe spaces. They just can’t handle stress.

A few days after Trump’s election, which made them very angry, was the assisted protest in front of Gibson’s that was a big part of the evidence in this trial. Their bad acts were very costly to Gibson’s and, now, to themselves.

And in the wake of that adverse verdict on compensatory damages, they act out again.

LukeHandCool | June 9, 2019 at 4:25 pm

“Punch back twice as hard” they said.

And if they’re dumb enough to still punch again, punch back 22 million times.

Insufficiently Sensitive | June 9, 2019 at 5:11 pm

don’t repeat the same failed claim that the college administrators were simply keeping the peace and protecting free speech when numerous witnesses testified otherwise

THERE’s administrative arrogance (the progressive sort) writ large. They are so correct that no plebian testimony has any weight whatsoever, because the Narrative must control and the pesky witnesses deplatformed, shouted down and driven from the premises.

Richard Aubrey | June 9, 2019 at 5:21 pm

Why didn’t Oberlin settle? It didn’t occur to them that what they could be shown to have done would qualify as “wrong”. Maybe they didn’t understand discovery. Maybe they thought they had deeper pockets.
But mostly because they are OBERLINNNNNN.

    (Sorry it took so long to reply)
    Your First part is absolutely correct as is the last element.
    So overwhelming correct that the middle two were not recognized as possibly significant,
    There would be no Discovery and just because Gibsons paid a lawyer does not mean the judge and Gibson’s own lawyer will not secretly support their (Oberlin perceived) class interests….(I recall thinking one of George Zimmerman’s lawyers had political aspirations and seemed to leave a lot unsaid in court, unsaid stuff that would have made a difference in post trial public attitudes that precluded GZ resuming his life)
    And on the other side, Gibsons was in a “shoot at the King” spot. Even overwhelming victory in court might not save them, but it was the only chance they had. Any prospective settlement might have some cash and some lip service, and would be followed by subrosa and “behind closed door” attacks until Gibsons was gone. Oberlin would learn from a first failure and not allow administrators to be seen publicly pushing things and there would be no paper trail left behind for anyone to find. On a related note, Oberlin was too specific and demanding for a first beatdown against… Gibsons in this case. Who have they successfully pistol-whipped into decriminalizing Oberlin barbarian behavior prior to this?

    Oh, and given 1,2, and 4, 3 doesn’t matter to Oberlin’s valuation of the risk of trial.

karl_lembke | June 9, 2019 at 7:12 pm

OK, now where do I buy stock in popcorn manufacturers?

This idiot’s letter (and especially its timing) gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Too stupid to live really should be a valid diagnosis.” Hope nothing physically serious happens to her.

Two words explain this phenomenon— affirmative action. By hiring the politically correct administrators, and not the best administrators, Oberlin has wound up with people who are completely in over their heads. I have always said that this is the Left’s fatal flaw.

Let’s hope I’m right!

I began praying, “Lord, bless me with stupid enemies” when I was in the Navy.

It appears to me the Gibsons are blessed.

BTW, I still say the same prayer. And as I survey the Klown Kar of Kandidates the Democrats have produced, we all should feel blessed.

… and that’s before you even get to the supercilious “thank the members of the jury for their attention and dedication” after basically saying they were dummies for not accepting Oberlin’s “clear” evidence. Clear as mud.

JoeThePimpernel | June 9, 2019 at 7:58 pm

Wherever America’s indigenous urban peoples are in charge, chaos and criminality follow.
Not to mention bankruptcy.

This all started with (3) blacks stealing bottles of wine [as they admitted to the crime, it is not alleged]. It would have cheaper for Oberlin to provide free booze on campus …. and pay the booze penalties.

“…wondering who, if anyone, is in control over there.”

Who are barking moonbats?

I’ll continue with College Puddings for $400, Art.

inspectorudy | June 10, 2019 at 12:27 am

I think what this alumni letter tells us is that the left sees itself as correct or morally superior on any disagreement no matter the venue. It tells us that THEY are the white Knights, not us or the law. This is why they say and do the most absurd things that make us scratch our heads in disbelief!

The “smart” or “educated” are often those who have the least amount of common sense.

The VP with the fast trigger finger on the enter button sending that email out is a Meechegun grad and that says it all about her sense of entitlement. University of Michigan is the biggest incubator of self assured liberals on an industrial scale. Oberlin has a big ass problem and she definitely made it worse. IMO.

Piper Scott | June 10, 2019 at 8:35 am

Why is it the more letters someone has after their name the dumber they act?

Double it…

AF_Chief_Master_Sgt | June 10, 2019 at 9:53 am

godfodder’s comment:

“Two words explain this phenomenon— affirmative action. By hiring the politically correct administrators, and not the best administrators, Oberlin has wound up with people who are completely in over their heads. I have always said that this is the Left’s fatal flaw.”

Correct. Like many here, I have watched Chernobyl with interest. Like the local Politburo member, he was a shoe salesman before being appointed well above his capabilities. He thought he was smarter than a physicist. Like all SJW institutions, they are lead by malcontents, miscreants, and morons.

One question I have is whether Oberlin’s actions in stating the Raimondo did not defame a local business constitutes an additional act of defamation on the part of the school?

When I was a youngster in the days before “Zero Tolerance”, I used to enjoy defending the underdog and beating up bullies.

Now what i really enjoy is watching the bullies beat themselves up!

The only explanation I have for the behavior of Oberlin College is that people have been praying that Gibson’s Bakery would win this case and that “God gave them over…” as in Romans 1, letting them suffer the consequences of their actions!

Leftists don’t care about the facts (like the jury ruling against Oberlin and Raimondo, not the students). Varner obviously has no litigation experience and her email smacks of CYA. My guess is she was very involved in the conduct of the defense, including developing the strategy, and the result is self-evident. What do hacks like Raimondo and Varner care about? Their jobs. The arrogance demonstrated by Oberlin, Raimondo and Varner is breath taking. This case and verdict is a big deal, and I suspect we shall see heads rolling shortly.

    MajorWood in reply to Honu. | June 11, 2019 at 11:50 am

    It is intervention time at Academics Anonymous. Seriously, replace Alcoholic with Academic and 99% of it fits seamlessly. Will the board be the tough love parent, or the enabler, as is too often the case.

Great coverage by LI.
I suspect that the dean and layer of Oberland have played the race card many times in their careers. I suspect that it has served them well in the past to quell opposition.
Eventually crying wolf in a crowded theater exposes you as a SJW nut job.

harleycowboy | June 10, 2019 at 5:39 pm

“Could add $22 million to it.”

After the mailings which would prove their maliciousness it should be bumped up to $50 million.

Soon to be seen on ebay:

“Diplomia from Oberlin University. Used once.
$1, or best offer.”