Cincinnati, Ohio: Chaos erupted in the courtroom as Judge Patrick Dinkelacker executed the jail sentence Monday for former Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter.
Hunter was sentenced to six months minus one day in the Hamilton County Justice Center. She was also given one year of community control.
Last week, an appeals court rejected her request for a stay, returning the case to Hamilton County.
Hunter was convicted in 2014 of unlawful interest in a public contract, a felony.
She was accused of giving confidential records to her brother, a juvenile court employee who was in the process of being fired.
After a dramatic day in court that saw former judge Tracie Hunter dragged off to jail, perhaps the biggest twist came via a phone call to the state capital.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters asked Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to commute Hunter’s six-month sentence, a surprise move following a tense hearing at the courthouse.
A spokeswoman for DeWine confirmed the two spoke and that DeWine would take a look at it. But Hunter, she said, must apply for a commutation.
The tension built Monday morning throughout a nearly 40-minute hearing in a Hamilton County courtroom packed with supporters of Hunter.
There was a letter read aloud from Deters, who had publicly feuded with Hunter when she was a juvenile court judge. Deters, whose office was not involved in Hunter’s case, questioned her mental health.
He asked Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker to consider delaying a six-month jail sentence that already had been delayed more than four years, so officials could evaluate “her stability to serve jail time.”
One of Hunter’s attorneys, David Singleton, also asked for a delay, saying he intended to file a motion to dismiss her conviction on a single felony charge related to the handling of confidential documents. She hadn’t violated state law, Singleton said.
“We believe it will be profoundly unjust and unfair, and a waste of taxpayer dollars to incarcerate her for one minute,” he said.
The tension increased when Dinkelacker spent several minutes reading from postcards, most of them anonymous, which he said Hunter’s supporters had sent to his home in recent weeks. He’d received 45 postcards.
“At my home,” he emphasized before reading.
The general message was that Dinkelacker should “exonerate” Hunter, who was convicted in 2014 and sentenced in December of that year. She was allowed to remain free as she pursued a series of appeals in both state and federal court.
Several referenced a 2013 fatal crash involving Dinkelacker’s car and another vehicle. Both vehicles struck a woman – who had high levels of cocaine in her system – who was in the middle of a city street.
One said: “Dear Honorable Dinkelacker, remember you killed someone and your privilege got you off. No? I do… How is it you got zero jail time?”
Another, signed Cincinnati Taxpayer, said: “Since you are a killer, maybe doing something right… will help your eternal judgement. Exonerate… former Judge Tracie Hunter. I know you will not, but you will not be able to tell your white Jesus that you were not asked.”
Dinkelacker then read directly from the state’s code of judicial conduct, which says a judge should not be “swayed by public clamor or fear of criticism.”
“If the intent was to intimidate me, in any way,” he said, “that has flat-out failed.”
At one point, Hunter declined to make a statement. But later, after conferring with her attorneys, she stood at a podium, intending to say something. Dinkelacker didn’t allow it, saying the opportunity had passed.
When Dinkelacker decided to impose the 6-month sentence and finally told a courtroom deputy, “You can take her away,” the courtroom exploded in shouting:
“She is not a criminal!”
“This city is going to burn!”
On Sunday Hunter posted:
“I will continue to fight until my name has been 100 percent cleared of all charges and I am fully exonerated and restored of all that was stolen from me.”
Chaos in the courtroom:
This was the scene in a Hamilton County courtroom Monday morning as former juvenile judge Tracie Hunter was ordered to serve six months in jail and dragged out: https://t.co/8NEFZWOVcY pic.twitter.com/HBlImlDxnI
— WLWT (@WLWT) July 22, 2019