ELYRIA — Three Oberlin College students pleaded not guilty Thursday to robbery charges stemming from a November incident that led to protests against Gibson’s Bakery.
Jonathan Aladin, Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, all 19, initially faced misdemeanor charges before they were indicted last week on the felony robbery charges.
Cecelia Whettstone, Endia Lawrence and Jonathan Aladin leave court after entering pleas of not guilty during their arraignments.
BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE Enlarge
Misdemeanor assault charges, which their attorney expects to be dropped, are pending against Lawrence and Whettstone in Oberlin Municipal Court.
Aladin, meanwhile, initially was charged with robbery, but that case was dropped and sent to the grand jury after Oberlin Municipal Court Judge Thomas Januzzi rejected a plea deal.
Aladin also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor forgery charge during his appearance Thursday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court. The forgery charge stems from the fake identification Aladin allegedly used at Gibson’s Bakery during the incident.
Oberlin police reported that Aladin tried to buy a bottle of wine Nov. 9, but Allyn Gibson, whose family owns the bakery, refused to sell it to him. Gibson also confronted Aladin about two bottles of wine the student allegedly had hidden under his shirt.
The police report on the incident said Gibson told Aladin he was calling the police and not to leave. Aladin allegedly tried to leave, and Gibson told police he took out his phone to take a picture.
Aladin allegedly slapped Gibson’s phone out of his hand, and the device hit Gibson in the face. Police have said Aladin then ran out of the store, throwing the two bottles of wine to the floor.
Gibson chased after Aladin and the two men got into a physical confrontation outside. When police arrived they reported seeing Gibson on the ground with Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone hitting him.
Although he has largely declined to discuss the case, county Prosecutor Dennis Will has said that Lawrence and Whettstone wouldn’t have been charged with robbery unless the grand jury found they had “acted in concert or been part of a common scheme or plan.”
Jack Bradley, the attorney representing Lawrence and Whettstone, previously said his clients weren’t inside the store at the time of the confrontation between Aladin and Gibson, but may have been there earlier.
The arrests sparked anger among Oberlin College students, who accused Gibson, who is white, and the store of racism. The three students are black.
Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone are free on bond and are due back in court later this month.
Chief Photographer Bruce Bishop contributed to this story.
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