CINCINNATI – In an email sent to the entire Hamilton County Juvenile Court staff Friday, suspended judge Tracie Hunter said the county “was not ready for its first African-American Democrat judge.”
The juvenile court opened Monday without Hunter on the bench after a grand jury indicted her on a series of felony charges Friday.
Grand jurors indicted Hunter on eight counts of criminal activity including tampering with evidence, theft in office, forgery and having an unlawful interest in a public contract.
The tampering with evidence charge involves the backdating of judicial entries to reflect they had been created and signed on a certain date -- when they had not, prosecutors said. Hunter is also accused of unlawful conduct in regard to her brother Steven Hunter's employment with the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.
Prosecutors said the theft in office charge against Hunter refers to the unlawful expenditures of public funds to pay unauthorized filing fees with the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Hours after her indictment, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered that Hunter be disqualified from acting as a judge while charges are filed against her.
In the one-page email obtained by WCPO, Hunter did not deny the charges against her and only acknowledged them once. The letter was titled, “Thank you and goodbye for now.”
Hunter said she has “learned and understand that change is difficult for most people, especially after 110 years.”
"I would disagree with that,” juvenile court Administrator Curt Kissinger said.
Kissinger said Hunter was not treated any differently because of the color of her skin or her political views.
Judge John Williams is taking on all of Hunter’s cases during her suspension. Two other outside judges -- Judge Tom Lipps and Judge Sylvia Hendon -- will also shoulder the workload.
Kissinger said Hunter’s indictment has been a distraction and hurt morale inside the court.
“It's stressful to have these types of circumstances,” Kissinger said. “It's very stressful too when our staff go out there in the public and run into friends and family over the holidays, and they're constantly asked questions.”
Hunter’s personal items were removed from her office Friday.
Some members of Hunter’s staff arrived for work Monday unsure if they sill had their job. Kissinger said court officials are deciding her staff’s future.
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