Oberlin College to pay $36 million to bakery owners in defamation lawsuit

Oberlin College and Conservatory will pay a $36.59 million judgment to a local bakery that sued for defamation, claiming the bakery owners falsely accused of racism after the arrest of three black students.

The college attempted to challenge the judgment, but an Ohio Supreme Court ruled in August that it would not support the school’s appeal. Oberlin College said in a statement Thursday that it would not pursue the case against Gibson’s Bakery.

“We are disappointed with the Court’s decision. However, this does not detract from our respect for the law and the integrity of our justice system,” the college said in a statement. statement.

The private liberal arts school in Oberlin, Ohio said the ruling would not impact “the academic and student experience.”

Gibson's Bakery
Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin, Ohio, in 2017.Dake Kang / AP File

The case stems from the arrest of students Jonathan Aladdin, Cecelia Whettston and Endia J. Lawrence on November 9, 2016.

According to a 2017 defamation lawsuit filed by Gibson’s Bakery against the school, Aladdin attempted to “steal wine or obtain wine illegally” with a fake ID. The bakery has a small section that sells wines and beer, according to rolling stone.

Aladdin was charged with theft, the lawsuit says. Whettston and Lawrence were each charged with first-degree assault, the lawsuit says.

Following the arrests, students, deans and faculty at Oberlin College protested in front of the bakery. “Accusations of racism were leveled against Gibson’s by some of the protesters,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims the group of protesters distributed flyers stating that the bakery “is a RACIST establishment with a LONG RECORD of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.”

“Today, we urge you to shop elsewhere in light of a particularly heinous event involving the owners of this establishment and local law enforcement,” the flyer reads, according to the lawsuit.

Oberlin College had also ceased doing business with the bakery, according to the lawsuit. Prior to the 2016 incident, the bakery supplied products to the college through a third-party supplier.

In February 2017, the college resumed operations with Gibson’s Bakery, but the establishment said it had already suffered “a serious and sustained loss,” according to the lawsuit.

The bakery said in the lawsuit that its employees were threatened and had their car tires slashed because of the school’s claims, and that owner David Gibson’s home was damaged on more than one occasion.

The three students who were later arrested pleaded guilty to misdemeanors. Aladdin read a statement in court admitting to attempting to purchase alcohol with fake ID and said he did not believe the actions taken by the employees were racially motivated.

“When the clerk recognized the fake ID, I struggled with the clerk to get the fake ID back,” Aladdin said, according to the lawsuit. “The clerk was within his legal right to detain me, and I regret presenting a false ID in an attempt to obtain alcohol. This unfortunate incident was triggered by my attempt to purchase alcohol. alcohol.”

Lawrence and Whettston told the court they intervened during the fight “on Aladdin’s behalf,” the lawsuit says. They said the employees were “only trying to prevent a sale of minors.”

Oberlin College said in its statement that the situation was “painful for everyone”.

“We hope that the end of the litigation will begin the healing of our entire community,” the school said. “We value our relationship with the City of Oberlin, and look forward to continuing our support and partnership with local businesses as we work together to help our city thrive.”

Gibson’s Bakery did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday.

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