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Gibson’s Lawsuit Will Go To Trial

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Gibson’s Lawsuit Will Go To Trial

The lawsuit filed by Gibson’s Bakery against the College and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo in 2017 will go to trial May 1.

The lawsuit filed by Gibson’s Bakery against the College and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo in 2017 will go to trial May 1.

Talia Rose

The lawsuit filed by Gibson’s Bakery against the College and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo in 2017 will go to trial May 1.

Talia Rose

Talia Rose

The lawsuit filed by Gibson’s Bakery against the College and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo in 2017 will go to trial May 1.

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After 18 months of negotiation and discovery research, the lawsuit that Gibson’s Bakery and Food Mart brought against Oberlin College and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo could go to trial early next month, unless a settlement is reached in the next week. Gibson’s filed the suit in November 2017, accusing the College and Raimondo of libel, slander, interference with business relationships, intentional interference with contracts, deceptive trade practices, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, and trespassing.

The trial is set to begin May 1 and is expected to last about a month. Judge John Miraldi of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas will preside over the case.

Oberlin Director of Media Relations Scott Wargo said that the College has been working for months to reach a resolution with the local business.

“The court has notified Oberlin College that … the Gibsons’ claims against Oberlin College and Dean Raimondo will move forward in court on May 1,” Wargo said. “We are disappointed. Every effort to resolve this matter has been to no avail. We believe the evidence is clear. Neither Oberlin College nor Dr. Raimondo defamed a local business [nor] its owners. Colleges cannot be held liable for the independent actions of students. Employers are not legally responsible for employees who express personal views on personal time. The law is clear on these issues.”

The current tension between the College and Gibson’s began in November 2016 when a Black student attempted to make a purchase at Gibson’s Bakery and was accused of shoplifting. The student ran outside the store and Allyn Gibson, the son of owner David Gibson, followed him. Gibson allegedly tackled the student, and the two got into a physical altercation. Two of the student’s friends saw the altercation and began hitting and pulling on Gibson to get him away from the student.

A customer in the shop saw the altercation and called the Oberlin Police Department out of concern for the students’ safety. When the police arrived, they immediately arrested the three Black students and refused to take statements from some students and witnesses who were present.

After the arrest, students organized a 12-hour boycott outside Gibson’s Bakery to protest what they characterized as racial profiling from Allyn Gibson, who is white, as well as the Oberlin Police Department.

Charges were filed against the students involved in the altercation, and after a 10-month long investigative process, all three pled guilty to misdemeanor charges in August 2017 in order to avoid the uncertainty of a trial. As part of the plea deal, they also read statements recanting any racial profiling accusations against Allyn Gibson.

The Gibson’s suit accuses the College and Raimondo of sanctioning and aiding students in the protest and boycott effort. The bakery claims its reputation has been smeared and that it has lost a significant amount of business since the protests.

Despite the rift, the College maintains it is committed to mending ties with Oberlin’s local businesses while supporting students in their exercise of free speech.

“The College values its long relationship with the town of Oberlin and its businesses,” Wargo said. “We will continue our commitment to the economic uplift of the local businesses that make this community, county, and region a destination of choice. The claims in this case conflict with the obligations of higher education to protect freedom of speech on college campuses. The College respects the rights of all individuals to express their personal opinions and to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights.”

Attorneys for the Gibson family did not return calls requesting comment.

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4 Responses to “Gibson’s Lawsuit Will Go To Trial”

  1. Steven PATRICK Kennedy on April 26th, 2019 11:22 PM

    Your skewed story leaves out that Jonathon Aladin was in fact trying to shoplift two bottles of wine when Allyn Gibson triied to restrain him, leading to the scuffle which found Gibson being assaulted by Aladin and his two female friends when the police arrived. The Oberlin Police produced the history of shoplifting cases at Gibson’s, which showed no evidence of racial profiling. Beyond the protests outside Gibson’s, groups on campus, including the Oberlin Review, called for a boycott, and emails produced in discovery show one Oberlin administrator bragging that Gibson’s reputation had been effectively smeared. You do note in the story that Aladin and his codefendants admitted the offences, and specifically acknowledged that racism played no part in this incident. There was no basis for the Oberlin student body and administration to try to destroy this local business, and yet to this day neither the college, the student body, nor the Oberlin Review has admitted their error or apologized to the Gibsons.

  2. James Henderson on April 29th, 2019 10:20 AM


    This was a fairly lopsided (and I am sorry to say) incomplete analysis of the events. While I appreciate that there are two sides to each story (and often even more than that), you have left a great deal out of your article. I don’t think that it is necessary to compile the list of things that you did not mention, as Patrick Kennedy has pointed out much of what is lacking in your reporting.

    It is, indeed unfortunate that what was essentially a shoplifting incident spiraled out of control so dramatically. It is also unfortunate that the College opted to play the bully, rather than the neighbor. And if ANY of the communications that came out during the discovery process and were reported on in the Chronicle Telegram are even partially accurate? The the Vice President, Mr Wargo, and others owe not just the Gibson family, but the city of Oberlin a very sincere apology.

    Many of you reading this will only spend four years in Oberlin. For many of us who still follow the news in our little town, it was our home – and in some ways still is. And when the College acts in the way that it has in this instance? Simply put, they are not behaving like a friend or a neighbor.

  3. Mills Crosland '84 on April 29th, 2019 8:13 PM

    Below is a link to the August 11, 2017 story in the Chronicle (a local daily newspaper) summarizing the Gibson’s incident and the guilty pleas of the three students in Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. This may fill in the gaps for readers unfamiliar with details of the events leading to Gibson’s civil suit.
    Jonathon Aladin, 20, Endia Lawrence, 19, and Cecelia Whettstone, 19 pleaded guilty to reduced charges of misdemeanor attempted theft and aggravated trespassing. In addition Aladin pleaded guilty to underage purchase of alcohol. Each was required to pay restitution in the amount of $334.00 and to remain on good behavior for one year.

  4. guinspen on May 1st, 2019 6:45 PM

    Respectfully, Sydney, a simple query.

    Why do you capitalize “Black,” yet not “white,” when referring to participants in the incident?

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