By Dan Yount, The Cincinnati Herald
Former juvenile court judge Tracie Hunter was released from the Hamilton County Justice Center at 6 a.m. Saturday, October 5, to waiting family members and friends standing for nearly two hours in the cold, having served only two full months of her original six-month sentence.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil said Monday at Faith Christian Alliance meeting where he was the guest speaker that he was allowed to and chose to grant her three-for-one credit for time served because she had counseled other women and conducted religious services in jail.
Cheers went up as Hunter moved into sight as she walked alone to the jail release area door. After receiving a bouquet of roses from her sister, Erica Hunter, she was escorted toward a SUV parked on the street, however, stopping midway to read a lengthy statement about her journey from juvenile court judge to her release from jail and vowed to fight to overturn her conviction and fully clear her. She was then escorted to the vehicle and taken home.
“I am still strong. I am still here. I am still standing, and I am still ready and committed to fight for justice and equality until truth and righteousness prevails,’’ Hunter said.
“Jail did not destroy my resolve to pursue what is right, and that is only my complete exoneration.’’
The release represents a quiet end to almost eight years of drama starting with attempts to thwart her election as juvenile judge, her short time as an outspoken judge, a trial and disputed conviction, and a lengthy appeals process that postponed the execution of the jail sentence.
Hunter has maintained there was resistance to accepting a Black Democrat as a judge and embracing the changes she had attempted to make in the court system. She is the first African American to serve during the court’s 100 plus year history.
Hunter was convicted of only one crime, which was improper interest in a public conract, for giving her brother access to confidential documents in order to prepare for a hearing. Judge Norbert Nadel sentenced her to six months in jail.
When Judge Patrick Dinkelacker two months ago ruled to execute the sentence, the courtroom erupted in shouts from her supporters, many of whom argued she was punished harshly because of her race.
Hunter went limp and had to be dragged from the room.
Hunter was greeted by members and guests as she returned to the pulpit at her church, Brethren in Christ US, in Westwood, Sunday. Lynn Thrush, D.Min., who is bishop of the church’s Great Lakes Conference, attended, saying that Hunter’s law license, her position on the court and her back pay should be restored, and the county justice system should be held accountable.
Hunter is the only African American pastor in Brethren in Christ in the nation. When her sentence was executed, Thrush elevated her to assistant moderator in the church’s Great Lakes Conference.
Hunter thanked her supporters. “I could not have made it through jail without my faith and the support I received from the people of God,’’ she said.