It was turmoil and chaos in the Cincinnati courtroom following the sentencing of former Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge Tracie Hunter’s to six months in jail. Hunter had to literally be dragged out of the room to begin serving her sentence while more than two dozen supporters howled and wailed. One of those supporters tried to jump the railing and was stopped by officers and led away in handcuffs.
The bizarre scene was clearly not unexpected since there were at least 10 law enforcement officers immediately reacting to the bedlam, preventing the situation from getting totally out of control.
Video by WCPO
Hunter’s legal team had fought to keep her out of jail since being convicted in October 2014 of unlawful interest in a public contract by helping her brother, a juvenile court jailer, in a disciplinary hearing. She was found guilty of the felony of sharing confidential documents with her youth corrections officer brother after he was accused of hitting a young offender in 2013.
The case became a divisive, racially charged issue in the region. Local TV station WCPO reported:
Even before Hunter’s trial and the prolonged bitterness that followed, her controversial decisions and battles with prosecutor Joe Deters’ office and the media, who sued her for closing her courtroom and other restrictions, split the community along racial and political lines. A Democrat, Hunter was the first black woman elected to Hamilton County Juvenile Court and took the traditionally Republican judgeship in a hotly-contested 2010 election that went to federal court, setting the stage for years of animosity between county Republicans and vocal Hunter supporters.
Hunter was suspended from the bench in January 2014 by the Ohio Supreme Court after she was indicted on eight felony counts of including unlawful interest in a contract in her brother’s case and unrelated charges of tampering with evidence and forgery. She has claimed that her prosecution was politically motivated.
“I violated no laws, I did not secure a public contract, I did not secure employment for my brother who worked for the court for about seven years before I was elected judge. They need to drop these unrighteous and I believe unlawful charges against me,” told WLWT in an interview on Sunday.
The discord did not end with Hunter being taken away from the courthouse. Following Monday’s courtroom disruption, dozens of Hunter’s supporters showed up at the home of Judge Patrick Dinkelacker who imposed the sentence. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist judge has to go,” they chanted Monday night as they marched on the street, according to Cincinnati.com. They also yelled, “Black lives matter” and “No, justice, no peace.”
“I have never seen anything like this, over a lot of years, a lot of cases,” an upset Dinkelacker told The Enquirer from his home while the protests there went on. “And there have been cases with race issues, like this one.” He insisted that he is not a racist. “I would like to have them find one person who would say Pat Dinkelacker is a racist; they won’t because I was not raised that way and it’s not true.”
“It’s starting to get to me,” he admitted.
About the protest Monday night at Dinkelacker’s home, county prosecutor Deters said it was “out of line,” adding that tracking a judge to their home is believed to be an unprecedented move in Hamilton County.
“Good-hearted people don’t do this,” he said.
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