College asks for Gibson’s case to be moved

By Laurie Hamame -

“Extensive and pervasive news coverage” has prompted Oberlin College’s lawyers to ask for the Gibson’s Bakery lawsuit case to be moved to Cuyahoga County.

A motion filed March 1 says the college and dean of students Meredith Raimondo can’t receive a fair trial here in Lorain County.

It claims coverage was sensationalized by several newspapers, including the News-Tribune, and that the jury pool has been “poisoned.” It argues that inaccuracies in reporting contributed to a tainted pool, though the paper stands by its reporting.

For example, the college’s lawyers criticize changes made to our story between the time an initial online report was posted and the publication of the print edition, such as that Raimondo “stood with the crowd” at the protest.

“No changes or additions contradict our original coverage,” said editor Jason Hawk, who wrote the stories. “The dean stood with the crowd on the sidewalk literally and stood with the crowd figuratively when she blocked our camera and argued we had no right to photograph students protesting in clear view of the public right-of-way. Both stories correctly identify the dean as providing boycott literature to the newspaper.”

The motion also criticizes two local daily newspapers for posting a copy of the lawsuit and cites comments by readers angered by the November 2016 incident.

Lorain County Common Pleas Court judge John Miraldi denied a motion in December by Oberlin College to remove part of the lawsuit filed by Gibson’s Bakery, according to court documents.

The college had asked the court to dismiss two counts — the alleged negligent hiring of Raimondo and trespassing.

Gibson’s filed the lawsuit against Oberlin College and Raimondo in November 2017, claiming libel, slander, interference with business relationships, interference with contracts, deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, and trespass.

The quarrel between the bakery and the college began a year prior when college students Jonathan Aladin, Endia Lawrence, and Cecelia Whettstone were arrested after Aladin, 19, attempted to shoplift two bottles of wine and then fled.

In the lawsuit, Gibson’s owners claim the actions of the college and Raimondo during that time have caused the bakery to struggle to survive. It alleges that Raimondo orchestrated and encouraged the two-day protests held on West College Street and distributed flyers accusing the store of racially profiling black people.

In its motion to dismiss, the college said the Gibsons cannot show that the school had any knowledge of past wrongful behavior by Raimondo because her conduct was not anticipated in the wake of the arrests.

The Gibsons further claim the college has encouraged staff, students, and contractors to park in a lot adjacent to the bakery, knowing it was meant to serve customers.

Judge Miraldi’s denial of the Oberlin College defendants’ partial motion to dismiss potentially paves the way for a jury trial of the case.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame