CINCINNATI JUDGE SENTENCED TO PRISON

 

Dec. 5, 2014

Judge Norbert Nadel admitted he had a “tremendous temptation” not to incarcerate Judge Tracie Hunter after her criminal conviction, but believed he had to because she was an elected official who broke the law — a combination Nadel called “a double whammy.”

“Without the dilemma of the double whammy, (Hunter’s service to her church and community) would absolutely have guaranteed probation,” Nadel said.

Nadel sat through Hunter’s five-week trail — six weeks if you count jury deliberations — and heard evidence that doomed Hunter, a controversial Juvenile Court judge indicted in February for having an improper interest in a public contract for trying to help her Juvenile Court employee brother after he was fired for punching a teen inmate.

“The evidence showed that the criminal conduct of Tracie Hunter has dealt a very serious blow to the public confidence of our judicial system and there’s no question about that,” Nadel said.

Hunter, Nadel said, took an oath as judge to uphold the laws of Ohio. Instead, he said she used her judgeship to commit nepotism, deny public access to the courtroom over which she provided, improper judicial temperament and tardiness in making decisions in her cases that often delayed attempts to have children adopted or placed in long-term foster care.

The sentence of six months in the Hamilton County Justice Center imposed by Nadel could have been much worse. She faced a maximum prison sentence 0of 1 1/2 years but Nadel said he was lenient on her partly because of the “public humiliation” Hunter already has experienced.

 

In addition, Nadel ordered Hunter to be placed on probation for one year but gave her a Christmas gift by not taking her into custody immediately, allowing her to report Dec. 29 to begin serving her jail term.

“To God be the glory,” Hunter told The Enquirer as she left court. “You have now convicted an innocent person.”

That sentence came after three hours of Hunter bringing 18 witnesses to speak about her character. Each said she was a kind, loving person who, as a pastor, thrived in helping others, especially in their times of trouble.

Those witnesses were talking about Tracie Hunter the pastor. Nadel sentenced Tracie Hunter, the criminal.

“I’m disappointed. I’m not shocked,” Hunter’s attorney, Clyde Bennett II, said of the sentence. “It will not stand.”

Even before Friday’s hearing started, Bennett filed a motion seeking to have any incarceration of Hunter delayed.

“We need time to prepare to allow Judge Hunter out on appeal,” Bennett said.

Nadel will rule on that early next week.

Hunter’s troubles aren’t over.

In addition to the single count for which she was convicted, a mistrial was declared on eight other charges. Bennett expects Special Prosecutors Merlyn Shiverdecker and R. Scott Croswell III to seek to have Hunter stand trial again for them. They carry a maximum prison sentence of more than 10 years.

She also faces, after her felony conviction, possible discipline by the Ohio Supreme Court that could include revoking her law license.

The sentence ends a tumultuous year for Hunter and a controversy-filled four years since she ran for judge.

She was indicted and suspended in January after she was accused of backdating and forging documents to help defense attorneys and using a county-owned credit card to pay her personal legal bills.

Hunter, 48, ran as a Democrat for judge in 2010, beating the Democrat-endorsed challenger in a primary. She initially lost the election but sued, saying some votes weren’t counted. She won the suit, the votes were counted and Hunter won the eleection by 74 votes.

She battled with The Enquirer over access to the public courtroom and documents, with the Public Defender over her delay in resolving adoption cases, with the prosecutors, appeals court and Ohio Supreme Court.

Hunter’s prosecution cost taxpayers more than $400,000

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