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Judge Tracie Hunter Charged with Eight Felonies
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio (Jeff Hirsh) -- The two special prosecutors in this case, Merlyn Shiverdecker and Scott Croswell were appointed in mid-September.
Since then, they say, more than thirty witnesses have been interviewed and thousands of documents were reviewed as part of the investigation.
Tracie Hunter is about to move from one side of the bench to the other; from judge to criminal defendant charged with eight felonies. A Hamilton County grand jury Friday issued indictments against Hunter for allegedly tampering with evidence, forgery, having unlawful interest in a public contract, and theft in office.
Hunter has been in the middle of controversy since taking the bench. Sued by the public defender's office for allegedly not finishing cases in a timely manner. Sued by news media outlets over courtroom and document access, and held in contempt of court by the court of appeals.
Hunter is a Democrat. Hamilton County Democratic party chair Tim Burke said he's disappointed over the charges but remains hopeful that Hunter will be found not guilty.
"I have to tell you, I had great hope for her coming into her position. When she was a candidate she talked with great compassion and logic about why she would be the appropriate individual to serve on that bench and the difference she could make. I think she has been trying to do that. I do have to tell you that I wish she had taken more advice from people who were used to sitting on courts."
The forgery and tampering charges deal with the alleged back-dating of court documents. The public contract charges concern employment for Hunter's brother in juvenile court. And the theft charges involve Hunter allegedly spending public dollars for unauthorized filing fees with the Ohio Supreme Court.
Hunter declined several Local 12 News requests for interviews prior to an investigation we aired in November about the judge's problems. But in a recent event at a suburban church, Hunter, who is also a preacher, defended her actions. The video was posted on YouTube by the Cincinnati Chapter of the National Action Network, which supports the judge.
"If I go to jail I will join the long list of Martin Luther King. I will join the long list of the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. I will join the long list of people like Rosa Parks. I will join the list of people like Nelson Mandela. So I have to go to jail if it means doing what's right for the children."
Meantime, it's expected someone else will deal with the children's cases that were before Judge Hunter for now. Ohio Supreme Court rules say a judge charged with a felony is disqualified and removed from the bench with pay as the case moves forward.
We called Hunter's office Friday afternoon and asked for a comment but have not heard back. She is scheduled to be arraigned, get the charges against her presented in court, next Friday.