A case of corruption has become political as a former juvenile court judge was ordered to prison, refused to go, and was dragged from the courtroom after she went limp in protest.
Tracie Hunter was elected in November 2010 to serve as a judge for Hamilton County Juvenile Court in Ohio. Due to an election dispute and a prolonged lawsuit, she was not sworn in until 2012. On January 10, 2014, she was suspended pending nine felony indictments.
Hunter was accused of tampering with evidence, forgery, theft and having an unlawful interest in a public contract. She had allegedly backdated and signed court orders to keep them from being appealed. She plead not guilty and was convicted on one felony count — a charge that she “provided a confidential document to her brother when he faced a disciplinary hearing in his court job,” Fox News reported. She was sentenced to six months in prison. The jury could not reach a decision for the eight other counts, so a mistrial was declared.
Before her second trial, the eight remaining felony charges were dropped. Her prison sentence had been delayed pending the additional charges, but after her appeal failed, she was ordered to jail.
Hunter protested her sentence in a Cincinnati courtroom on Tuesday and had to be physically removed. Video from the court, published by Fox News, shows an officer holding Hunter under her arms and dragging her across the floor. The outlet reported that Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker had received numerous postcards supporting Hunter. He said they constituted intimidation and “flat-out failed.”
Hunter, a Democrat, has long accused Prosecutor Joe Deters, a Republican, of defamation and had butted heads with his office while she was still a judge. Deters himself had been accused of theft in 2003 but was acquitted. Deters wrote that Hunter had “never once shown remorse” for her crimes, according to Fox 19.
“She has been incredibly disrespectful to you and the justice system,” he wrote. Deters also implied Hunter “has some sort of medical condition” and suggested she undergo a medical evaluation.
Hunter’s attorney, David Singleton, pushed back hard on the suggestion and pointed out that Hunter had lost everything over her conviction.
“I can’t believe Deters would ask for her to be evaluated. There is no issue whatsoever about her not being competent or understanding. Absolutely not,” Singleton said, according to Fox 19.
“She has gotten up each morning not knowing whether that was going to be the day she was going to jail,” he added. “I know the impact that this has had on her life. We believe it would be profoundly unjust and unfair and a waste of taxpayer dollars to incarcerate her even for a minute.”
Fox reported that Sheriff Jim Neil, a Democrat, said Monday that “Ms. Hunter’s well-being and safety will be my No. 1 priority.” He also said she may be eligible for early release programs, so she may not serve a full six months.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Hunter claims she was injured while being dragged from the courtroom. A spokesman for Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office said they were investigating her claims.