Judge reduces Oberlin damages to $25 million

Friday a judge reduced the damages in the Oberlin case to just over $25 million. A reduction was expected because the original award given to Gibson’s bakery exceeded caps on punitive damages put in place as part of a tort reform effort in Ohio. It’s not clear if Oberlin will attempt to appeal the current judgment to further reduce it.

The Chronicle-Telegram recounts a conference call Oberlin’s president held Thursday night with alumni to reassure them the school would be able to pay the judgment. Not only does President Carmen Twillie Ambar not sound apologetic, she seems to be questioning the guilt of the student shoplifter involved in the initial incident:

A black Oberlin College student tried to buy alcohol with a fake ID and shoplifted two bottles of wine from the store in November 2016 before he was chased out of the store by Allyn D. Gibson, who is white and is the son of owner David Gibson.

Outside, Allyn D. Gibson was assaulted by that student and two others who also are black before Oberlin police officers arrived. All three students pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, admitted criminal responsibility, publicly denied the Gibsons are racist and said Allyn D. Gibson was within his rights to chase the shoplifter out of the store…

Despite the students involved in the theft and assault taking responsibility in court, Ambar said she felt the initial incident was “mischaracterized” or not fully explained — “shoplifting or a fake ID, there’s an issue about what happened there,” she said. From the students’ perspective, it was a case of one student running into Tappan Square while being pursued by Allyn D. Gibson, Ambar said.

There’s no reason to doubt the shoplifting in this case. Police body cam video (see below) shows the two bottles on the floor of the store where they were dropped as the student ran out of the store. Police pick them up to take them as evidence. More surprising though is the fact that President Ambar appeared to be saying on the call that Gibson’s does treat people differently based on race:

As for the issue of an apology, Ambar told alumni that “goes to the issue of race.” Without going into specifics, she said members of the college community have had “a variety of experiences with Gibson’s — ranging from “wonderful” to “not wonderful.”

“Those different lived experiences are absoutely true, but they are in conflict with each other,” Ambar told the alumni. “The college didn’t issue an apology because it was hearing these different perspectives and didn’t think it should apologize for issues it didn’t create.”

The president of a school facing a $25 million judgment for aiding student efforts to label Gibson’s Bakery a racist institution is insinuating on a conference call with alumni that Gibson’s is a racist institution. So no lessons learned at Oberlin I guess.