Gibson’s Trial Ends After 10-Month Legal Battle

Sydney Allen and Jack Rockwell

Three Oberlin College students who had been locked in a legal battle with Allyn and David Gibson of Gibson’s Bakery and Food Market since November 2016 reached a plea deal with Elyria prosecutors Aug. 14. All three students, junior Elijah Aladin and sophomores Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone, pleaded guilty at the trial and received misdemeanor charges and a fine.

Aladin pleaded guilty to attempted theft, aggravated trespassing, and underage purchase of alcohol. Lawrence and Whettstone each pleaded guilty to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing.

Throughout the case, Aladin maintained that he was innocent of theft and robbery, stating that the fake ID he was charged for possessing was explicit proof that he intended to purchase alcohol, an offense with far less serious potential consequences.

“The reason I was trying to avoid trial at all costs is because robbery in Ohio is a crime that has a preference for prison … that has jail time of 2–11 years,” Aladin said.

The trio, represented throughout the case by a lawyer paid for anonymously by an alumus of the College, was sentenced to incarceration. Aladin was initially sentenced to 300 days, while Lawrence and Whettstone were to serve 270 days each.

The sentences were suspended in the final plea deal, however, which came with the condition of one year of good behavior, a fine, and an allocution by the students. The students must pay a restitution of $334 each to Allyn Gibson to cover his medical insurance deductible and pay off any remaining court costs, which have amounted to around $540 each.

The allocution read during the final hearing released the Gibson’s employees of any wrongdoing.

“I believe the employees of Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated,” the students read. “They were merely trying to prevent an underage sale.”

If these conditions are met, the students’ records will be sealed after a year.

According to Oberlin City Prosecutor Frank Carlson, the two female students’ cases were originally charged as misdemeanors, but Aladin was charged with robbery, a second-degree felony that could have resulted in 2 to 11 years in prison. In December, Carlson, defendants, and proprietors of Gibson’s all agreed to a plea bargain that reduced the charges to misdemeanors.

However, in a controversial turn of events, Judge Januzzi of the Municipal Court rejected their proposal, citing the severity of the charge and the court’s unwillingness to bend to possible political and economic pressures from the students and College.

“A conclusion may be drawn that the [alleged] victims of the robbery have little choice but to assent in this proposal under penalty of a permanent economic sanction,” wrote Januzzi in the trial journal, insinuating that Gibson’s was being pressured to settle the case because of economic influence wielded by the College and students.

Carlson explained that despite the rejection, the students received the same misdemeanor charges at the County Court that they had originally agreed to at Oberlin Municipal.

“I think the court felt that [Aladin] was charged with a felony, and the plea tender we made to the court was for a second-degree misdemeanor, and the judge felt that that was too much of a reduction,” Carson said.

After the event, students quickly mobilized to form a large protest outside Gibson’s and to push for a campus-wide boycott. Soon after the incident, signs were hung across campus encouraging fellow students to join in the movement.

For Aladin, this ending was a somber relief to a difficult year.

“Right now, I’m treasurer of the school,” he said. “I’m helping run the [Student Finance Committee]. The whole time I was thinking I could be doing this for the next two years, or I could be behind bars for the next two years. Every decision had to reflect that.”

Aladin expressed his gratitude for the support the student body showed.

“It may have made it more difficult legally — but that’s not to say I don’t appreciate it, that I don’t love it,” he said.

Allyn Gibson could not be reached for comment.