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Former Judge Tracie Hunter Released From Jail, Vows to Fight On

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I committed no crime,” said Hunter. “All of this was a vindictive, vicious, and retaliatory attack against me because I had the audacity to run for one of the most powerful positions in Hamilton County. I had the audacity to win. I had the audacity to sue the board of elections to prove that I won. They were forced by a federal court to overturn the original elections results against my opponent, who was appointed by the governor.”

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Former Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge, Tracie Hunter, who earned her undergraduate degree from Miami University in 1988 and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1992, is released after serving three months of a six-month sentence.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Tracie Hunter, the first African American juvenile court judge in Hamilton County history, is free again after serving nearly three months of a six-month jail sentence following her conviction on charges of unlawful interest in a public contract. She was found guilty of helping her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document.

In July, Hunter was dragged off to prison after going limp in the courtroom while demonstrators protested her incarceration.

As news broadcasts showed a sheriff’s deputy dragging the former judge away, Hunter told NNPA Newswire that she mostly blacked out.

“As I previously shared with [The Black Press], I had very extensive injuries from an accident. I had a metal rod in my back, and it limits my mobility,” Hunter explained.

“Then, after the judge imposed the sentence, there was so much commotion, and I and my attorney both were hit in the back of our heads. At that point, everything became a blur. The next thing I knew, I was being dragged across the courtroom floor,” Hunter stated.

Once behind bars, things only got worse.

Hunter said her health began to decline, guards mistreated her regularly, and regular showers were denied.

Guards also searched her small cell often, and without cause, Hunter stated.

“I was treated horribly by the guards. They talked to me in cruel and disrespectful ways,” she noted. “They searched my cell all of the time, and often I’d be the only person they’d search. On one occasion, they went to the room next to me and told the people there to pretend they were searching that room, but they were searching my room.”

During one of the searches, Hunter alleges that prison guards entered her cell and “absolutely tore it apart.”

“One time, they said they were searching for drugs, and what’s odd is that they know I have never done drugs, and I don’t drink. But there were others in there because of drugs, and they didn’t search them for drugs,” Hunter stated.

The only thing guards ever confiscated from Hunter were writing pens, which she believed was within her rights to possess.

Worse, Hunter stated that she would routinely be on lockdown, once for as long as 25 consecutive hours. Rarely did she eat because she feared guards might have poisoned her food.

“They’d bring me my food, but I wasn’t going to eat it because they had treated me so viciously. They were handling my food, so I thought it might have been poisoned,” Hunter stated.

Jail nurses would provide Hunter apples and Gatorade to help keep her from starvation and dehydration, she said.

“Mistreatment was going on daily. Most of the time, I was freezing cold, and I wore like five shirts every day, around the clock,” Hunter noted.

Hunter, who earned her undergraduate degree from Miami University in 1988 and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1992, won the election in 2010.

She stunned the Republican-heavy city by defeating GOP contender John Williams.

Williams and the GOP contested Hunter’s victory, and a heated court battle ensued.

After numerous appeals by the Hamilton County Board of Elections, officials refused to count more than 800 votes from majority Democrat and Black precincts.

Hunter then filed a federal lawsuit to have those votes counted.

While the court finally ordered the count, election officials still certified Williams as the victor.

Eventually, the election was overturned in Hunter’s favor.

The 18-month period proved pivotal because of then-Gov. John Kasich appointment of Williams to the bench.

The state Supreme Court changed the rules giving Williams administrative authority over the court.

As the senior judge and the only one elected, Hunter would have received the position of the administrative judge.

Still, Hunter worked behind the bench to protect the rights of children, including refusing to allow their names and faces to appear in news coverage.

Among other things, she instilled a system that focused on rehabilitation instead of incarceration.

Hunter mandated prosecutors turn over all critical evidence to defense lawyers.

She forced the juvenile court to change its entire reporting system and outlawed the routine shackling of juveniles in her courtroom.

Hunter also received credit for exposing juvenile case statistics, which were being inaccurately reported and falsified to the Ohio Supreme Court.

She hired African Americans in key positions, reduced default judgments, and spearheaded the change of state election laws, which paved the way for ex-felons to vote.

However, the Cincinnati Enquirer and WCPO Television joined Republican county officials in the prosecutors’ and commissioners’ offices in lawsuits challenging Hunter.

“They filed 30 lawsuits in less than nine months that I was on the bench,” Hunter said.

After serving just 18 months, her enemies found a way to silence her and end her career.

Prosecutors alleged that Hunter used her judicial credit card to appeal the lawsuits filed against her by Deters, the prosecutor.

She was sentenced in July and began serving six months. The court reduced the sentence after she agreed to minister to inmates in the jail.

Hunter walked out of jail on Saturday, Oct. 5 but her legal and personal battles are far from over. “I’m continuing to fight this wrongful conviction until it’s overturned,” Hunter stated.

“I committed no crime. All of this was a vindictive, vicious, and retaliatory attack against me because I had the audacity to run for one of the most powerful positions in Hamilton County. I had the audacity to win. I had the audacity to sue the board of elections to prove that I won. They were forced by a federal court to overturn the original elections results against my opponent, who was appointed by the governor.”

Hunter continued:

“The first African American to serve on the juvenile court of Hamilton County, and you become a political prisoner who was treated horribly. Our community in Cincinnati has always been divided by race, politics, religion, and social economics. I will never apologize for something I did not do. They want me to apologize for dividing a community that was already divided. And, I’m certainly not going to apologize to a sheriff’s deputy who dragged me on the floor like a piece of trash for the entire world to see. That was demoralizing, dehumanizing, and degrading. And, on top of that, it was an African American woman whom they put up to doing that.”

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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