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Gibson's suspects' trial pushed back; county charges may be coming

OBERLIN — A trial in Oberlin Municipal Court scheduled for two women charged with assault stemming from an incident at Gibson’s Bakery has been pushed to May because of charges possibly forthcoming from a county grand jury.

The trial for Oberlin College students Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone was supposed to start Monday, but their attorney, Jack Bradley, asked the court to continue it because he learned that the women were the target of an investigation by the county prosecutor.

The municipal court trial is now scheduled to begin 8:30 a.m. May 15. Oberlin Prosecutor Frank Carlson said it would likely take three days to complete.

Bradley said he was in a quandary about how to proceed given that he is under the impression a county grand jury will consider charges against the women this week. He said lawyers for Oberlin College received numerous subpoenas for employees and students, including Lawrence and Whettstone, for the grand jury Wednesday.

“I was a little bit taken aback that they had received these subpoenas,” Bradley said.

He said Assistant County Prosecutor David Muhek confirmed that his clients were targets of the investigation.

Prosecutor Dennis Will declined to comment Wednesday.

Bradley said the women’s possible appearance in front of a grand jury means he might advise them to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights in municipal court.

He said there is apparently new evidence that places Lawrence and Whettstone inside the bakery when the alleged theft occurred, which means they could face additional charges.

He also said that charges from the grand jury likely will mean the lower-level charges in Municipal Court will be dismissed.

“(The grand jury) could indict on a number of things,” Bradley said.

Lawrence and Whettstone face misdemeanor assault charges in Oberlin Municipal Court for their alleged involvement in an incident at Gibson’s in November where police say they assaulted Allyn Gibson, whose family owns the bakery, when Gibson chased after Jonathan Aladin, whom he suspected of shoplifting.

Aladin, 19, also is a student at Oberlin College.

According to a police report, Aladin tried to buy a bottle of wine at Gibson’s while also concealing two bottles of wine under his shirt. After Allyn Gibson refused to sell him the wine, he confronted Aladin about the bottles, police said.

Aladin then allegedly slapped Gibson’s phone out of his hand, causing it to strike Gibson’s face, and then Aladin took off running, breaking two bottles of wine on his way out, police said.

Gibson pursued him out the door and across the street where there was a physical confrontation.

When police arrived, they said they saw Gibson on the ground with Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone punching him.

Aladin’s case has been forwarded to Will’s office for review. The felony robbery charge filed against him in Oberlin Municipal Court was dropped by city prosecutors after Oberlin Municipal Court Judge Thomas Januzzi rejected a plea deal.

Aladin would have pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted theft, a misdemeanor, but Januzzi did not like the deal.

Because of the rejection, Bradley said Carlson won’t present a plea deal for Lawrence and Whettstone.

Carlson, who called Januzzi’s rejection of Aladin’s plea deal an “unwarranted intrusion,” said he’s worried that pushing back a possible trial too far would create difficulties as the college goes on break at the end of May.

“I’m surprised the whole process has taken as long as it has,” Carlson said.

Contact Jodi Weinberger at 329-7245 or jweinberger@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jodi_Weinberger.



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