Rebecca Whitby, 25, and her now 6 month-old daughter
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Daniel Gaul
From the Metro Desk of the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com and Cleveland Urban News.Com(www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Daniel Gaul has released Rebecca Whitby from prison on shock probation just 48 days into a six months prison sentence that was enacted per the requests of White male Cleveland Fifth District police officers that White neighbors said beat her unnecessarily and called her nigger. She still, however, remains on probation but can now tend to her little girl, whom her mother took care of while she was away.
Gaul sentenced Whitby March 8 after a nearly week long trial that ended Feb. 7.
"She is blessed and God has prevailed over evil," said Marva Patterson, Whitby's aunt and a community activist along with her husband David Patterson, who also fought tooth and nail for the release of the 25-year-old single mother of a nearly six months-old child.
"This shows what a unified community can do," said Frances Caldwell, a member of the Imperial Women and the executive director of the up and coming renewed African-American Museum in Cleveland.
The Patterson's and other family members picked Whitby up today after she was returned to the Cuyahoga County jail from the Women's Reformatory in Marysville, Oh.
Though charged in a 12-count indictment with robbing the police of their guns, child endangerment and numerous counts of assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest, the jury found her guilty last month of only one count of felony assault on a police officer in the fourth degree, and resisting arrest, a second degree misdemeanor. Her mother, also named Rebecca Whitby, was acquitted of two counts of felony assault against police but convicted of a fifth degree felony count of obstruction of justice for allegedly seeking to shield her daughter from an attack and beating by police the night the girl was arrested. Whitby faced 39 months in prison, and her mother, whom Gaul sentenced to two months probation, faced a year.
Grassroots activists groups such as the Lucasville Freedom Uprising Network, Black on Black Crime, the Imperial Women, the People's Forum, Stop Targeting Ohio's Poor, the Greater Cleveland Immigrant Support Network, the Oppressed People's Nation, Advocates for Cleveland's African-American Museum, People for the Fair Treatment of Joaquin Hicks,
and others fought for the Whitby women before trial and in helping to convince Gaul to release the younger Whitby from prison before the completion of her sentence.
Sharon Danann, a leader of the Lucasville Uprising Freedom Network who led the charge to free the former college student, was overjoyed.
"We will be having a home coming celebration," she said at a Black on Black Crime meeting this evening.
Gaul was handpicked to hear the consolidated cases of Whitby and her mother by Cuyahoga Presiding and Administrative Judge Nancy Fuerst, after Cuyahoga Judge Kathleen Sutula rejected her assignment to step in for Cuyahoga Judge Stuart Friedman, who voluntarily quit the case following allegations of racism by grassroots factions that are now pushing a bill for all of Ohio's trial court judges to be assigned and reassigned to cases by random draw, one expected to be introduced by State Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10) momentarily.
The case unraveled almost two years ago when the younger Whitby was, according to an elderly White neighbor who said publicly and who testified at trial, beaten and subjected to racial slurs such as “nigger” by White Fifth District police officers one dark night in 2009 in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood where the family once lived. Court documents reveal that police were called to the home by her father because of a minor family dispute.
The Whitbys' say police harassed them because when they found nothing wrong after being summoned to the home they were determined to get something out of nothing for the inconvenience. Police said the then 130 lb Whitby grabbed their guns in a "Jesse James" type show down, though first review of the younger Whitby's case by the Cuyahoga County Grand Jury came as a "no bill," meaning no charges. And activists say that she was indicted thereafter
to protect the City of Cleveland against what might and still may be a liabilty suit around alleged police misconduct as to the controversial issue. But regardless, the activists say that they are thankful to Gaul.
"We are elated that Judge Gaul chose to now be fair and release her and we hope that other judges are capable of ratifying wrongs when it is necessary and legitimate," said Betty Brown, a member of the Imperial Women.
The younger Whitby was represented at the trial court level by Cleveland Attorney Scott Ramsey but has been assigned new counsel as to a pending appeal. Her mother is represented by Attorney Terry Gilbert, a Cleveland area criminal defense and constitutional lawyer. She too is appealing her conviction.