This is a pretty amazing verdict in a case where woke college student and like-minded administrators at Oberlin accused a local bakery of racism after it dared to prosecute three students for shoplifting. Jazz wrote about this story back in 2017 but Legal Insurrection has been watching this closely since November 2016. We’ll get to the big verdict in a moment but first let’s set up what happened. Here’s part of the description from the police report on the incident that started all of this (via Legal Insurrection):
On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, at approximately 4:58pm, officers responded to the area of Gibson’s Bakery in reference to a report of a fight in progress. As officers were responding to the area, dispatch advised that this was involving an alleged theft complaint. Dispatch advised that Allyn Gibson, who is an employee of Gibson’s Bakery, was attempting to apprehend a subject who Allyn had witnessed attempt to steal several items. As officers approached the area, Sgt. Ortiz, and Officer Feuerstein both stated they observed Allyn Gibson lying on his back with several individuals kneeling over him punching and kicking him with several other individuals in the immediate area. Officers attempted to gain control of the situation and were met several times with resistance from several different individuals. After a few minutes officers were finally able to take one female into custody and calm the incident and attempt to figure out what had taken place.
The reporting officer then spoke with Allyn Gibson, his father David Gibson, and another employee of the store identified as Brent Gingery. The reporting officer first spoke with Allyn who stated that on this date, a black male subject later identified as Jonathan Aladin, attempted to conceal two bottles of wine under his shirt. Allyn stated he advised Aladin that he knew he had the concealed items and told Aladin not to leave because he was contacting the police. Allyn stated Aladin attempted to leave the store so Allyn took out his phone and attempted to take a picture of Aladin and that’s when Aladin slapped Allyn’s hand and phone and caused it to strike Allyn in the face. Allyn stated Aladin began to run to the back of the store throwing the two bottles of wine on the floor. Allyn stated at this point he attempted to detain Aladin, but Aladin became violent and began grabbing and hitting Allyn. Allyn stated at this point he yelled for his father who was in the back room of the store and for someone to call the police. Allyn stated after a few seconds his father David came out and attempted to keep Aladin from hitting Allyn. Allyn stated he never threw a punch at Aladin and just kept attempting to grab him to keep him from hitting him and leaving the store. Allyn stated at some point Aladin was able to get away from Allyn and was able to leave the store and make it across the street from the store with the two females that were with Aladin in the store.
Allyn stated once they were across the street from the store, he again attempted to detain Aladin but again Aladin became violent knocking Allyn to the ground and began punching Allyn again. Allyn stated once he was on the ground the two females also began punching and kicking Allyn in the head, face and body. Allyn stated at one point, Aladin stated, “I’m going to kill you.” Allyn stated the next thing he knew officers were on scene and pulling the individuals off of him. Allyn had several abrasions and minor injuries including what appeared to be a swollen lip, abrasions to his arms and wrists and a small cut on his neck.
Police eventually released the body cam video showing them interviewing Allyn Gibson and his father David right after the incident happened. You can view it here. The bottom line is that Jonathan Aladin was arrested for robbery and the two girls who were with him were arrested for assault for hitting Allyn outside the store.
Because Jonathan and one of the girls arrested are black, a group of woke Oberlin students rallied and began protesting the bakery with chants and signs that read “Black Lives Matter.” Here’s a bit of what what looked like just a few days after the incident:
Among the crowd was Oberlin College dean of students Meredith Raimondo who was handing out literature calling Gibson’s bakery a “racist establishment.” The protests continued and about a week later, Oberlin College stopped buying donuts and bagels from Gibson’s in reaction to a student-led boycott of the bakery.
In August of 2017, the three students involved in the incident pleaded guilty to misdemeanors of attempted theft and aggravated trespassing. None of them served any time but they did make an admission which was clearly part of the agreement:
Before the sentencing, Aladin, Lawrence and Whettstone each read statements acknowledging that Gibson was within his right to detain Aladin and that his actions were not racially motivated.
Though the two women read nearly identical statements, the lawyers representing Gibson’s sought clarification when one of the woman changed the wording – saying Gibson’s actions “may not” be racially motivated.
The lawyer representing the women, Jack Bradley, read the line of the statement for clarification: “I believe the employees of Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated. They were merely trying to prevent an underage sale.”
Three months later, Gibson’s sued Oberlin College claiming the school, for several reasons, was trying to hurt their business with false accusations that it was racist. Police investigated and found that of the 40 cases of shoplifting at the bakery in the previous five years, the person responsible was black in just six of those cases. The complaint filed by Gibson’s also claimed the school had asked them to call the school rather than police when a student was caught shoplifting. Gibson’s refused to agree to what it deemed a “first-time shoplifter’s pass” for students.
In response, the school denied the allegations and cut off all remaining business with the baker. Finally, after attempts by the school to have the case dismissed for summary judgment, a judge ruled in April that the core of the case would go to trial. The Chronicle-Telegram noted at the time that there was some clear evidence that Oberlin professors and administrators were involved in trying to smear the bakery and anyone who stood up for them:
A message sent by associate professor of music theory Jan Miyake said, “So heres one rhing (sic) on my mind about gibsons. They own so much prime property in oberlin that boycotting doesnt hurt them that much. The smear on their brand does, and that’s been taken care of.”…
The document also included some testimony given by Miyake during a deposition for the case. Miyake was asked what she meant by “the smear on their brand does.”…
When asked how Gibson’s brand was smeared, Miyake said, “They protested outside the store for three days chanting, ‘Racists.’”…
In other internal communications included in the filing, [dean of students Meredith] Raimondo allegedly “threatened to weaponize the student body” against a professor after he spoke out against the defamation and boycott of Gibsons, court documents said.
According to court documents, Vice President for Communications Ben Jones sent a text message saying, “(Expletive) ROGER COPELAND.”
“(Expletive) him,” Raimondo responded in a message. “I’d say unleash the students if I wasn’t convinced this needs to be put behind us.”
The trial began in May and on Friday, the jury rendered its verdict. Again, Legal Insurrection had someone at the trial every day and has reactions to the verdict:
According to our reporter in the Courtroom, the jury awarded $11 million. Here are the details: Allyn W. Gibson was awarded $3 million, David Gibson $5.8 million, Gibson Bros. $2,274,500. Next Tuesday there will be a separate punitive damages hearing which could be a double award (meaning tripling the $11 million to $33 million)…
When the verdict was read by the judge, four generations of the Gibson family — from 11-year-old Cashlyn to 90-year old Allyn W. “Grandpa” Gibson — hugged each other behind their plaintiff’s courtroom table. They are a hardy bunch, and did not cry or show too much emotion — no wailing or crying by this family — but as one who has watched them for over a month now, you could see a burden had been lifted from their shoulders…
Lee Plakas, who handled much of the month-long trial and who gave the closing argument, said this case “is a national tipping point.”
“What the jury saw is that teaching students and having them learn how to be upstanding members of the community is what colleges are supposed to do, not appease some students who they are afraid of,” Plakas said. “People around the country should learn from this, that you can use the legal system to right the wrongs, even if the one doing the wrong is some huge institution who thinks they can do anything they want.”
Legal Insurrection has some exclusive video interviews of the family and the attorneys. I encourage you to check those out. This really ought to be a big national story. Given the outcome, hopefully it will serve as a warning to administrators around the country who would encourage or condone this kind of behavior from students.
Finally, I just have to point out that the false claims made by the student protesters and their accomplices at Oberlin were seen as an embarrassment to people of color living in town. An employee in the school’s Communications Department sent this email to her boss which made the rounds among administrators:
“I have talked to 15 townie friends who are poc and they are disgusted and embarrassed by the protest. In their view, the kid was breaking the law, period (even if he wasn’t shoplifting, he was underage). To them this is not a race issue at all and they do not believe the Gibsons are racist. They believe the students have picked the wrong target.”
This was never a racial issue. This was always about a fringe of woke activists vs. people of all races with basic common sense. It’s a relief that common sense won this battle in a significant way, though there will, of course, be appeals and attempts to reduce the amount of the judgment.