An Ohio prosecutor is asking the governor to commute a six-month prison sentence for a Black former judge who went limp and was dragged out of a Hamilton County courtroom Monday.
Video footage from the Cincinnati courtroom shows a black deputy dragging Tracie Hunter out of court as protesters shout she’s being treated “like an animal.”
Hunter was convicted of felony interfering with a contract in October 2014 when she gave confidential documents to her brother, a juvenile court employee in the process of being fired, according to the daily Ohio newspaper The Cincinnati Enquirer.
She was sentenced in December of 2014 and has been allowed to bypass jail time to pursue a series of state and federal appeals.
Following the hearing to impose Hunter’s sentence, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters, who did not prosecute Hunter at trial, asked Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to commute the sentence — a surprising move because Deters had publicly feuded with Hunter when she was a juvenile court judge — the Enquirer reported.
Deters also questioned Hunter’s mental health at the recent court proceeding in a push a delay her sentence so officials could examine “her stability to serve jail time.”
Although the move for commutation would first require Hunter to apply, it is one of few chances at freedom for Hunter.
One of her attorneys, David Singleton, asked for a delay in imposing her sentence because he intended to file a motion to dismiss her conviction, according to the Enquirer.
“We believe it will be profoundly unjust and unfair, and a waste of taxpayer dollars to incarcerate her for one minute,” Singleton said.
Local civil rights advocates took to the courtroom where Hunter’s sentence was imposed to protest the decision long criticized as unnecessarily harsh.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick Dinkelacker, the judge who imposed the sentence in the 40-minute hearing, spent several minutes reading some of the 45 postcards sent to his home in support of Hunter.
Several people referenced a 2013 fatal crash in which Dinkelacker’s car and another vehicle struck a woman who had high levels of cocaine in her system and was in the middle of a city street, the Enquirer reported.
One of the letters read: “Dear Honorable Dinkelacker, remember you killed someone and your privilege got you off. No? I do… How is it you got zero jail time?”
Another letter, the Enquirer obtained was signed Cincinnati Taxpayer and read: “Since you are a killer, maybe doing something right… will help your eternal judgement. Exonerate… former Judge Tracie Hunter. I know you will not, but you will not be able to tell your white Jesus that you were not asked.”
Other Hunter supporters pointed to political motivations behind her criminal conviction. Hunter, a Democrat, took office in a disputed 2010 election, several Ohio media outlets reported.
Four years later, she was indicted Jan. 9, 2014, on a charge of unlawful interest in a public contract as well as two counts each of theft in office, forgery, tampering with evidence.
All but the felony interfering charge were dropped in 2016 when prosecutors concluded there was no point in pursuing the other charges because they had proven their point, NBC affiliate WLWT reported.
Joe Mallory, first vice president of the Cincinnati NAACP, wore a Justice for Judge Tracie Hunter T-shirt and alleged prosecutorial misconduct in Hunter’s case on Twitter July 14.
A petition the Cincinnati NAACP started to urge Dinkelacker to dismiss the charge against Hunter had gathered 2,317 signatures of a 2,500 signature goal by 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Petitioners accused Hunter’s political opponents of conspiring to prevent her from being elected by using voter suppression, and petitioners also alleged evidence was destroyed in the criminal case against her.
“The conspiracy and corruption are undeniable, from the destruction of public computers that would have further vindicated Hunter’s innocence to the baseless and trumped-up felony charges used to remove and steal the seat away,” the NAACP said in the petition. “This is not justice, but sad examples of the extent some are willing to take to maintain power.”