Appellate Court Upholds $25 Million Award Against Oberlin in Mob Action Against Family Grocery

Starting in 2017, I have written half a dozen columns on the lawsuit against Oberlin College over its participation in a campaign against a small family-owned business accused of racism. In this case, the college not only joined the mob but helped lead the mob against Gibson’s Bakery. Even after a massive award by the jury, Oberlin President Carmen Twillie Ambar continued to refuse to apologize for the shameful and costly conduct of her administration. Now, an appellate court has upheld a $25 million judgment against the small college and Oberlin earned every penny of that penalty. Ambar still remains the president of the college.

This controversy began with a shoplifting case. In 2016, an African American student named Jonathan Aladin was caught trying to steal a bottle of wine from Gibson’s Bakery, which was established in 1885 and has been closely tied to the college for over a century. When the grandson of the owner tried to stop Aladin, a fight ensued and police were called. Aladin and two other students, Cecilia Whettstone and Endia Lawrence, were arrested. Students, professors, and administrators held protests, charging that the bakery was racist and profiled the three students.

Oberlin maintained in court filings that the son and grandson of the owners of Gibson’s Bakery “violently and unreasonably attacked” an unarmed student, but that is not how the police viewed it. Aladin was charged with robbery, which is a second degree felony, and Whettstone and Lawrence were charged with first degree misdemeanor assault. Police rejected claims of a racial motive and noted that, over a period of five years, 40 adults were arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s Bakery, but only six were African American. It also is not how the court viewed it. When prosecutors cut a plea deal to reduce the charge to attempted theft, a local judge refused. He said the plea deal appeared to be the result of a permanent “economic sanction”by the college in which the victim had little choice but to relent. Ultimately, all three students pleaded guilty.

The merits of the case did not seem to bother Oberlin officials or student protesters. Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo reportedly joined the massive protests and even handed out a flier denouncing the bakery as a racist business. When some people contacted Oberlin to object that the students admitted guilt, special assistant to the president for community and government relations Tita Reed wrote that it did not change a “damn thing” for her. Reed also reportedly participated in the campus protests.

Other faculty members encouraged students who denounced the bakery. The chairman of Africana studies posted, “Very proud of our students!” Oberlin barred purchases from the bakery, pending its investigation into whether this was “a pattern and not an isolated incident.” Raimondo also pressured Bon Appetit, a major contractor with the college, to cease business with the bakery. Reed even suggested that “once charges are dropped, orders will resume” and added that she was “baffled by their combined audacity and arrogance to assume the position of victim.”

The jury in June 2019 awarded the Gibsons $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages. A judge later reduced the award to $25 million. That was just upheld and the appellate court also upheld an award of $6.2 million payment in attorney fees. That comes to $31.2 million not including millions spent by the college to fight this case. If you add the same fees for the college, it comes to $37.4 million in fighting this case by Oberlin.

What is most striking about this case is the utter lack of accountability or remorse on the part of Oberlin. Notably, even after record judgments against the college, officials like Raimondo remained at the college and faced no apparent sanctions for their conduct. (Raimondo recently left the college).

President Ambar would not even apologize to this family. The two patriarchs of the family died during the course of this litigation.

Yet, the college itself is also a victim. The tens of millions of dollars lost by Oberlin could have given hundreds of students free tuition at the school. It could have sustained major research grants and programs. Instead, college officials burned through the money rather than stand up to a mob.

Here is the opinion: Gibson Bros. v. Oberlin

55 thoughts on “Appellate Court Upholds $25 Million Award Against Oberlin in Mob Action Against Family Grocery”

  1. The Way you get Liberals is HIT THEM IN THE POCKET BOOK, they scream when they have to PAY especially when they lose to a conservative. Oberlin College Admin were dumb and foolish and now it costs them $25 million plus Legal Fees. Unfortunately, until Oberlin changes its tune and clean house of its President and Admin they have not learned just $25 Million plus plus poorer.

  2. The shame of it all is that, absent the race spin thrown on this matter by the college administration, the silly incident that launched this story would have been nothing more than a dumb kid doing what dumb kids do. Testing the limits in pranksterism, social games, shoplifting and arguing for themselves even when wrong are all rites of passage. We shake our heads, set the kid straight and shred the four-year-old paperwork.
    But when adults embrace adolescent behavior and cause real and lasting harm, the consequences must be real and lasting.

  3. I’m an alumnus of the Conservatory and followed this news story as it developed. As the initial decision and the appellate decision both found, the students and College together were involved in some truly miserable behaviors and hid behind a number of rationalizations and subterfuges. The individual students who sparked the circus all pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The outcome of the civil suit is just and proper, but issues remain. The intransigence of the College despite a truly damaging result and its refusal to admit wrongdoing is sad beyond belief. I can understand how students might have their heads spun around by nonsense thinking, but for professional adults (administrators) to succumb as well is emblematic of just how unmoored higher education has gotten at some institutions, including my alma mater. In addition, the Schadenfreude expressed by commenters who relish in destruction (financial or otherwise) is appalling. No one should be gleeful or vengeful when institutions like Oberlin fail so execrably.

    1. I am sorry I have to go ahead and disagree with you. This is not Schadenfruede. This is justice. Take your pathetic biased preening to the Oberlin Administration who still bear 99% of the responsibility for this result, and who have paid 0% percent of the cost. It is a major crime that they actually still have their jobs. You are an alum. You should start a total boycott of Oberlin for their despicable, horrific, and thoroughly dishonest treatment of the Gibsons.

      1. You appear to have a reading comprehension problem, perhaps the result of not knowing quite what certain words mean.

  4. One word: “Beautiful” I only wish it was a $100 million To think I wanted to there a long time ago. Great conservatory but otherwise a despicable College

  5. This entire story eminates from but one initial bit of “woke” insanity that’s now become the new normal with the “elites” who suffer to live amongst us: black men were once slaves in America, so therefore the actions of modern day black men in America are always excuseable, no matter how unlawful. This untenable position is one of the many illogical and grotesque hills that the Left has chosen to die on. We are witnessing, in real time, the self immolation of an entire social/political movement unable to save itself from it’s own brand of non thinking, ham handed political extremism.

  6. This institution learned several lessons: Don’t litigate a case in the court of public opinion, leave it to the courtroom; Words matter; Don’t jump to conclusions.

    The students should learn this lesson. Don’t take what is not yours.

  7. It’s my understanding that Oberlin didn’t just fail to stand up to the mob, but that the administration actively encouraged and led the mob.

    1. John B – one of the administrators was handing out flyers to the mob.

  8. Oberlin and its Leadership and Staff are ALL WOKE – They need to be held accountable and must PAY the PRICE of their WOKENESS, hit the Social Justice WOKE crowd where it HURTS in the POCKETBOOK. $25 Mil plus $6 Mil – GREAT- YES

  9. “It could have sustained major research grants and programs.” Ahhh, about research grants……If a professor obtains a research grant from the Federal Government up to 55% of that grant is grabbed by the college or university. So a professor’s research project that would normally cost $2mil has to get $4+mil from the government in order to conduct the project AND pay the vig to the college. Another screw job to the taxpayer.

    1. Karen Ann, there are indirect costs to conducting the research such as heat, utilities and building maintenance. Thus the so-called grabbed funds.

      1. Imagine being a graduate student, doing both some of the best quality research of your career, and simultaneously shouldering a 1/2 time teaching load. Imagine that it’s 1978, and you’re being paid less than $8,000 a year to do that. Imagine that the university won’t provide so much as a parking space, or a single sick day, let alone food, housing, or healthcare. I don’t have to imagine it, I lived it. And so did thousands of other PhD students. Meanwhile, the university took 40 cents of every $1.40 charged to my stipend. Sorry, but those funds *WERE* grabbed.

        The numbers have changed with inflation, but the racket remains the same. The grab goes on.

  10. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave,

    When first we practice to deceive.”

    ― Sir Walter Scott

    “Water and oil do not mix. They are said to be immiscible. This is because water is a polar molecule – its structure means that is has a positive charge one end and a negative charge the other end. Water molecules stick together because the positive end of one water molecule is attracted to the negative end of another. The structure of an oil molecule is non polar. Its charge is evenly balanced rather than having one positive and one negative end. This means oil molecules are more attracted to other oil molecules than water molecules, and water molecules are more attracted to each other than oil, so the two never mix.”

    – Emma Vanstone

    Oil and water mix only through emulsification.

    Infinite unconstitutional political emulsifiers are required to accomplish the counterintuitively compelled political mixture of “oil and water” in America.

    Oberlin will have paid $37.4 million to untangle this bit of Sir Walter Scott’s web.

    Ironically, free slaves must have been compassionately repatriated in 1863, by law, assuring that no web was ever weaved, and that no attempt to mix oil and water was ever made.

    Ain’t America Great?

  11. Turley concludes:

    “Instead, college officials burned through the money rather than stand up to a mob.”

    As a by-the-book attorney, Turley opposes mob justice. Rightly so. Which likely explains why he has said little to nothing against throwing the book at the mob of Trumpists who violently assaulted the police and ransacked the halls of our Capitol. Turley indignantly called it a “desecration.” Which also explains why he has been silent about the 1/6 committee’s determination to get to the bottom of who was behind this desecration.

    1. I never cease to be amazed at the durability of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

    2. Gee … a reply purports to be a response to an article about litigation in Ohio between an institution of “higher” learning and the bakery it destroyed .. but it becomes a whining few sentences blaming President Trump for something totally unrelated to the article.

      1. I’m a NeverTrumper. Always will be. I’m here. Get used to it.

  12. $25,000,00! I am thoroughly enjoying my coffee cup filled with progressive’s tears. Surely a book is to be written. “ The Virtue Signal Pays The Price”. A national best seller is born. Let us anxiously await the sequels.

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