Oberlin College makes $36M payment to bakery in racial profiling defamation case
( NYPost )
Oberlin College has forked over the $36 million owed to a local bakery after the progressive Ohio school falsely accused the family-operated business of being racist.
The substantial payout was awarded earlier this year after Gibson’s Bakery won a defamation lawsuit against the school that sided with three black students who claimed the store racially profiled them when they were caught stealing from the shop in November 2016.
“We can confirm that all funds have been disbursed and that the family is continuing with the process of rebuilding Gibson’s Bakery for the next generations,” Brandon McHugh, the Gibson family’s attorney, told 3News on Thursday.
“It’s definitely about right and wrong. And to be quite frank, the three students that shoplifted, they admitted their crimes,” adds McHugh. “It was Oberlin College that could never admit that what they did was wrong.”
The 137-year-old bakery plans to use the money to rebuild the store, which lost a considerable amount of business after the racism accusations and Covid-19 pandemic hit concurrently.
“I would replace the compressors for the refrigerators and replace the fryers and proofers that we use for our dough. I would pay off the mortgages on my properties that I’ve taken out in the past few years. I’d hire back employees and ramp up production,” Lorna Gibson wrote in a September piece for The Post.
Gibson’s Bakery filed the defamation suit against Oberlin College in 2017, a year after the shoplifting incident where one of the students used a fake ID to try to buy a bottle of wine, while swiping two more bottles, court papers said.
Gibson’s son, Allyn, chased the trio — Jonathan Aladin, Endia Lawrence and Cecelia Whettstone — out of the store, where a scuffle ensued. When police arrived, the students alleged Allyn racially profiled and assaulted them.
An Oberlin College staffer created and distributed flyers claiming the family had a “LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION” and urged shoppers to boycott the store. Protestors from the school, both students and teachers, picketed outside the Ohio bakery.
The family lost a substantial amount of business because of the allegations, Gibson said, even after the students admitted in 2017 that they hadn’t been racially profiled. They pled guilty to attempted theft.
The Gibsons decided to sue the college because the family’s patriarch, 89-year-old Allyn Sr. “who had dedicated his life to the business, did not want to die being falsely branded a racist,” Gibson said. Allyn died earlier this year.
Oberlin College was fined $11 million for defamation in 2019 after finding the college defamed the bakery when the staffer made the flyers, but the school tried to appeal the ruling. In September, the Ohio Supreme Court denied Oberlin’s bid to hear its appeal and ordered it to pay the Gibsons over $36 million.
“It’s definitely about right and wrong. And to be quite frank, the three students that shoplifted, they admitted their crimes,” McHugh said Thursday. “It was Oberlin College that could never admit that what they did was wrong.”