OBERLIN — Oberlin College has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the institution from Gibson’s Bakery, which is asking for more than $200,000 in damages stemming from a November 2016 incident in which a student attempted to steal wine from the shop and a community uproar followed.
The motion was submitted Dec. 6, about a month after Gibson’s filed the lawsuit in the Lorain County Common Pleas Court.
Gibson’s suit names the college and Meredith Raimondo, vice president and dean of students, as defendants. The complaint accuses the college of libel, slander, interference with business relationships, interference with contracts, deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and trespass.
According to the college’s version of events as described in the Dec. 6 motion, three students, who are black, went to Gibson’s Bakery and one of the students, Jonathan Aladin, attempted to purchase wine with a fake ID. Allyn Gibson, who is white, followed the students out of the store and across the street into Tappan Square, property owned by the college, and “violently assaulted the male student,” the motion states.
The motion says that the two female students, Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, intervened on behalf of Aladin when Gibson refused to stop the assault.
“When police arrived on the scene, they arrested only the three Oberlin College students despite witness statements that Allyn D. Gibson was the aggressor,” the motion states.
The motion does not include information from the police report of the incident that accused Aladin of attempting to conceal two bottles of wine under his shirt while trying to purchase a third with the fake ID. According to the police report, when officers arrived, Allyn Gibson was on the ground with the three students standing over and punching him.
Some Oberlin College students who learned of the incident believed the alleged physical assault by Allyn Gibson and the failure of the Oberlin Police Department to arrest Allyn Gibson to be the result “of racial profiling and racial discrimination,” the motion states.
Following the incident, protesters gathered in front of Gibson’s Bakery to “peacefully exercise their constitutional rights.” The college also canceled a standing order it had with Gibson’s, which it later reinstated, but then canceled again when Gibson’s filed the lawsuit.
During the protests, Gibson’s claims Raimondo assisted and joined in with the protests. The college said these claims are “demonstrably false” and that Raimondo acted within her authority to temporarily suspend daily bakery orders from Gibson’s.
In August, Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone pleaded guilty to amended misdemeanor charges of attempted theft and aggravated trespassing in county Common Pleas Court. Aladin also pleaded guilty to underage purchase of alcohol. The deal called for them to receive no jail time and to pay restitution. Included in the deal was an admission by the three students that Allyn Gibson was within his right to detain Aladin and that his actions were not racially motivated.
In the motion to dismiss, the college says Gibson’s has “rejected all attempts from Oberlin College to rise above misunderstandings, perceived wrongs, and outrage, and further rejected Oberlin’s vision of a new relationship built on personal accountability and a shared commitment to the overall health of their beloved hometown.”
The motion says Gibson’s “seek(s) to personally profit from a polarizing event that negatively impacted Oberlin College, its students and the Oberlin community.”
The college says the lawsuit falsely portrays Gibson’s as innocent victims but “the actual facts do not bear this out.”
“In reality, it was an employee of Gibson’s Bakery and a relative of the individual plaintiffs, Allyn D. Gibson, who left the safety of his business to violently physically assault an unarmed student,” the motion states.
The college said its sole concern at all times has been the safety of its students and that it never targeted Gibson’s.
The motion calls for the court to dismiss the two claims that “are ripe for dismissal” including the claim of negligent hiring, retention or supervision for the hiring of Raimondo and Gibson’s claim of trespass.
In a separate response also filed Dec. 6, the college said it will “vigorously defend this ill-advised and unfortunate lawsuit.”
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