Family Bakery Wins Libel Suit Against Oberlin College, Awarded $44 Million

Paula Liu
By Paula Liu
June 16, 2019USshare
Family Bakery Wins Libel Suit Against Oberlin College, Awarded $44 Million
A picture of a diner restaurant. (Free-Photos/Pixabay)

A family-owned bakery just won a libel lawsuit against Oberlin College and received $44 million in compensation, according to an updated report by The Chronicle-Telegram.

In the updated report, Gibson’s bakery was awarded $33.2 million by a Lorain County in the lawsuit against Obelin College and the Vice President and Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo. According to the news outlet, the Gibsons sued the college and Raimondo following the racial profiling allegations after the 2016 shoplifting incident where an Oberlin student attempted to buy alcohol with fake identification.

On top of the initial amount of more than $11 million awarded to the Gibson in compensation charges, bringing the total compensation to $44 million in total.

The Washington Times reported that Oberlin college was ordered by a jury to pay the Gibson family’s bakery company $11 million in compensation for damages caused by libelous statements made regarding an incident back in 2016.

According to the Chronicle-Telegram, then-88-year-old Allyn Gibson was working at the family-owned bakery, which has sold baked goods since 1885, when he caught three black students shoplifting a day after the elections in 2016.

The underage Oberlin students had tried to buy wine from Gibson who refused. Gibson then realized that one of the students had two bottles hidden under his shirt and confronted the suspects about it.

When Gibson attempted to take a picture of the three students, one of them slapped the phone out of his hand, and the two got into a physical fight that ended with Gibson on the ground being hit by all three students, according to the Chronicle-Telegram.

In 2017, all three students pleaded guilty and wrote a statement saying that Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated, according to the Chronicle-Telegram.

Jack Bradley, the attorney for the two female suspects of the crime, told the court, “I believe the employees of Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated. They were merely trying to prevent an underage sale,” the Chronicle-Telegram reported.

But although the students were arrested for attempted theft and aggravated trespassing, the Gibsons soon met with backlash the wider community which they alleged was facilitated by the college, according to the Washington Times. Many in the community were accusing them of racism.

According to the lawsuit, Oberlin college had stopped classes to allow students to join a protest outside Gibson’s bakery for which staff helped to distribute defamatory flyers.

“[The bakery] is a racist establishment with a long account of racial profiling and discrimination,” the flyer read.

The school also provided credits to students who were part of the rally, as even free drinks and food, according to the Daily Wire.

The college’s vice president was also reported to have demanded that the college’s director of dining services cease purchasing items from the Gibson’s bakery, although the contract has since been resumed.

The bakery lost business and their reputation following these actions, with the jury ruling that the college was guilty of libel.

“The jury saw that Oberlin College went out of their way to harm a good family and a longtime business in their community for no real reason,” the attorney for the Gibson family, Owen Rarric, told the conservative Legal Insurrection Foundation of the findings, reported the Times. “The jury said we aren’t going to tolerate that in our community anymore.”

In response, the school claimed that it did not control the actions of its students.

“As we have stated, colleges cannot be held liable for the independent actions of their students,” said the Oberlin general counsel Donica Thomas Varner, according to the Washington Times. “Institutions of higher education are obligated to protect freedom of speech on their campuses and respected students’ decisions to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights.

“Oberlin College acted in accordance with these obligations,” it said, although the jury did not agree.

David Gibson said that the trial and the vilification over the past few years had taken a toll on the family, and the verdict at hand brought some relief, according to the Times.

“I am at a loss for words. Two-and-a-half years of putting up with this has been very difficult and overwhelming,” Gibson said, according to Daily Wire.

“I just want to let people know across the country that this can happen to anyone else, but we stayed and worked together as a family and fought against this.

“In many ways, what we wanted from Oberlin College the jury gave to us. They said we were not racists and that the college should have said so when all this started.

“I thank the jury for seeing what we have seen from the beginning of this.”

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