Ohio's Oberlin College paid $36 million dollars to Gibson's Bakery and Food Mart, three years after the university lost in a defamation suit filed because its staff falsely labeled the store and its owners as racist for stopping a group of shoplifters in 2016.
According to local news, the attorney for the Gibsons, Brandon McHugh, said on Thursday, "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."
In 2016, three black Oberlin College students were caught trying to shoplift from Gibson's Bakery. The owners called the police and the three students were arrested and pleaded guilty. As part of their plea agreement they had to confess, in writing, that "their actions were wrong and that the store wasn't racist."
According to the New York Post, "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."
Social justice protests began one day after the incident and the bakery was accused of "racism," with Oberlin students and staff holding boycotts and protests. Oberlin College also ended their contracts with the bakery, which had previously supplied baked goods for students.
The college's former Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo, handed out fliers to protestors and pushed the false claim that the bakery had acted in a racist manner. Raimondo was also found guilty of defamation along with Oberlin College itself.
In 2019, the bakery filed, and won, a defamation suit against the college. The original settlement said the university owed the bakery $40 million, though that figure was eventually reduced to $25 million in damages plus $6 million in legal fees. The college appealed, and even after Oberlin was ordered by Ohio's state appeals court to pay, they stalled. The college was then ordered to pay interest, which was accrued the longer Oberlin didn't pay. The interest eventually accrued to bring the total to $36 million.
While the college stalled, Gibson's Bakery suffered in the years since they were first falsely accused. They had to reduce their workforce from twelve down to four, and the bakery's father-son duo, Allyn and David Gibson, have passed away. David Gibson died at age 65 of pancreatic cancer in November 2019, while 93-year-old Allyn Gibson died in February 2022.
Even if the appeal is unsuccessful, however, the bakery will still receive its money via an appeal bond obtained by the school from the Zurich American Insurance Company.
Raimondo is now at Oglethorpe College in Georgia after stepping down from Oberlin in 2021.Gibson's lawyer said, "It's definitely about right and wrong. And to be quite frank, the three students that shoplifted, they admitted their crimes. It was Oberlin College that could never admit that what they did was wrong."
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