ELYRIA — Attorneys for Gibson’s Bakery have asked a judge to deny Oberlin College’s motion to change the venue for its lawsuit to Cuyahoga County because it “is premature, is unsupported by any material or reliable evidence,” among other reasons.
Early last month, attorneys for Oberlin College asked county Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi to change the venue of the case from Lorain County because they didn’t believe the college could get a fair trial here “due to extensive and pervasive news coverage in the case.”
The response said the college’s motion “improperly requests” the court to transfer the venue of the case more than a year before the scheduled May 2019 trial date and requires the court to “speculate that eight fair and impartial citizens cannot be seated as jurors without first conducting voir dire.”
Gibson’s also said that granting the motion would “improperly require” the court to speculate that three Lorain County newspapers have “intentionally and permanently ‘poisoned’ the entirety of the jury pool by publishing seven articles, which, for the most part, will predate the trial by more than two years, to the point that eight fair and impartial citizens cannot be seated as jurors from a Lorain County adult population of over 230,000.”
The response states that Oberlin College claims of bias are based entirely on comments posted to online newspaper articles from persons who, if each of them resided in the county, would “comprise approximately 0.035 percent of the adult population of Lorain County.”
Gibson’s lawyers also argued that Oberlin College claims that stories that have appeared in newspapers have had a biased slanted against the college and have “an axe to grind against Oberlin College.”
The response said that a Nov. 10 article from The Chronicle-Telegram presents accurate coverage on the content of Gibson’s complaint and the procedural events surrounding the crimes at issue.
“Defendants may take issue with the allegations in the complaint; however, the defendants cannot reasonably claim The Chronicle-Telegram is somehow biased against them based solely on the fact that it reported the content of the allegations within the complaint,” the response said. “… As a result, The Chronicle-Telegram coverage of this lawsuit was spot on.”
Gibson’s also said the college wants the venue changed prior to any attempt being made for jury selection in Lorain County. Oberlin College also said it has a strained relationship with the Lorain County community, to which Gibson’s response said “runs directly counter to material that Oberlin College publicly disseminates, wherein it touts its strong bonds to the Lorain County community.”
Changing the venue of the trial to Cuyahoga County would put it in a different appellate district, the response said. Gibson’s called it “a disingenuous tactic aimed at delaying ultimate justice for plaintiffs and erecting logistical litigation hurdles.”
The motion asked that Miraldi move the case to Medina County rather than Cuyahoga County if he believes the venue should be changed from Lorain County.
Gibson’s sued the college and Meredith Raimondo, vice president and dean of students, for libel, slander, interference with business relationships, interference with contracts, deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring and trespass.
The rift between the bakery and the college began last year when a student tried to buy alcohol with a fake ID from Allyn Gibson, son of the bakery’s owner, David Gibson.
The police report said Allyn Gibson told Jonathan Aladin he was calling the police and not to leave. Gibson said he then took out his phone to take a photo of Aladin, and Aladin slapped the phone from his hand and the device hit Gibson in the face. Police have said Aladin then ran from the store, dropping two bottles of wine.
Allyn Gibson chased after Aladin, and the two men got into a physical confrontation outside. When police arrived, they reported seeing Allyn Gibson on the ground with Aladin and two other students charged in the case, Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, hitting him.
The incident became racially charged because Allyn Gibson is white and the three students are black. All three students pleaded guilty in August to misdemeanor charges and read statements into the record acknowledging that Allyn Gibson was within his right to detain the shoplifter and that his actions were not racially motivated.
The bakery claims it has suffered a loss of business as a result of the protests by Oberlin College students and community members that ensued after the incident.
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