Oberlin College to pay $36.59 million to bakery owners who say they were falsely accused of racism

Oberlin, in a statement, said it would not pursue the case and called the decision disappointing.

“This case has been painful for everyone,” the statement said. “We hope that the end of the litigation will begin the healing of our entire community.”

The case stems from the November 2016 arrest of three black Oberlin students at the bakery and market near the university’s campus in Oberlin, Ohio.

A student, Jonathan Aladin, was charged with attempted robbery for allegedly attempting to “steal wine or illegally obtain wine” from the bakery, according to the defamation lawsuit. He will eventually confess in a written statement to having tried to illegally buy alcohol.

The other two suspects were arrested and charged with assault, according to court documents. Oberlin staffers then attempted to discredit the family bakery, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said Oberlin Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo and other university staff “distributed hundreds of copies” of the accusing flyer to the community and media stating that Gibson’s Bakery and its owners racially profiled and discriminated against the three students. .

The flyer listed 10 of the bakery’s competitors and urged customers to shop there instead.

In November 2016, according to the lawsuit, Oberlin College said it severed business ties with Gibson’s Bakery. The store had supplied baked goods for the school’s catering services through a third-party company.

Although business ties were restored three months later, the store had already suffered serious consequences, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said “libel, boycotts, protests and refusal to do business with Gibson’s Bakery had a devastating effect on Gibson’s Bakery and the Gibson family.”

In August 2017, nine months after the three students were arrested, Aladdin and Endia Lawrence pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and aggravated trespassing, according to court documents.

The third student also pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and aggravated trespassing. His case was expunged, Traci Orlando, civil secretary to Judge John R. Miraldi, said in 2019.

In a written statement released the same year, Aladdin confessed to using a fake ID to try to buy alcohol when a store clerk tried to stop him.

“This unfortunate incident was triggered by an attempt to purchase alcohol,” Aladdin wrote, according to court documents.

“I believe the actions of the Gibson employees were not racially motivated. They were simply trying to prevent a sale of minors.”

Oberlin, in Thursday’s statement, said, “We value our relationship with the City of Oberlin, and we look forward to continuing our support and partnership with local businesses as we work together to help our city thrive. “

Oberlin prides itself on being progressive and inclusive. In 1844, George B. Vashon became the first black student to earn a bachelor’s degree from the college, according to the school’s website. In 1862, Mary Jane Patterson earned a bachelor’s degree in education and became the first black woman to graduate from an American college.

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