The jury in the criminal trial of suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter heard over four hours of opening statements from defense and prosecution lawyers today.
Special prosecutor R. Scott Croswell painted a picture of a woman who has, since taking office in May 2012, repeatedly violated court rules and broken laws to the point where there was no choice but to seek a criminal indictment against her.
Hunter’s defense lawyer, Clyde Bennett, spent much of his time talking about the character of his client, who is also a pastor. She has devoted her life to serving God and others, particularly children, Bennett said.
And, Bennett said, he believes the case against Hunter, a Democrat, is politically motivated because she defeated a well-known Republican after a contested election; and that the Republican establishment is out to get her.
“This case is about a woman of faith who is very loving, very obedient to God, who serves and ministers to the community, who is an advocate and protector of children,’’ Bennett said.
If you listen to all the evidence, Bennett told jurors, "it will be clear that the charges in the indictment are politically motivated - hard feelings, bruised egos."
Croswell, in an opening statement that lasted over two hours, detailed for the jury of 11 women and one man each of the nine criminal charges against her. The charges include tampering with evidence, forgery, theft in office, misusing a county credit card and back-dating court documents.
“In the process of doing those things, she violated criminal statutes,’’ Croswell said.
Croswell told jurors today that they will “find that the evidence substantiates the charges that have been brought and that she is guilty of each and every count that has been alleged by the grand jury of this county.”
“You are not here to punish her for violating the rules,’’ Croswell told the jurors in the courtroom of Common Pleas Court Judge Norbert Nadel. “But you are here to make a fair and just verdict.”
At one point early on in Croswell’s presentation, Hunter – who said she is suffering from laryngitis – began coughing violently; and Nadel called a 10 minute recess. Bennett escorted her from the courtroom to recover.
The trial could last four to six weeks. The jurors will begin hearing testimony from witnesses today.