Judge Tracie Hunter indicted on eight felony counts
A grand jury indicted Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on a series of felony charges Friday alleging she backdated court entries and stole from office.
CINCINNATI -- A grand jury indicted Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on a series of felony charges Friday alleging she backdated court entries and stole from office.
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.
Hours after her indictment, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered that Hunter be disqualified from acting as a judge while charges are filed against her.
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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.
"I am surprised and disappointed in hearing about the charges," Hunter's attorney Richard Blake said. "I have not reviewed the indictment and cannot properly respond to the charges until I have had a chance to review the charges.”
Special prosecutors Scott Croswell and Merlyn Shiverdecker were appointed by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas to investigate Hunter. More than 30 witnesses were interviewed and thousands of documents were reviewed before indicting her.
Bishop Bobby Hilton, Hunter's friend, said he is "appalled" by the allegations against her.
"It's a travesty," Hilton said. "Everything has been thrown except the kitchen sink. This has been an assault against this judge since 2010 when everything possible was done -- spent almost $2 million of taxpayer money trying to stop this judge from being seated. When that didn't work, the attacks continued."
Hunter, 47, has been the subject of legal cases including banning reporters from her courtroom.
Last week, WCPO won a lawsuit against Hunter related to broad restrictions she placed on media in her courtroom.
Those restrictions include a ban on identifying juvenile suspects and their parents in or out of court. The First District Court of Appeals ruled that Hunter's restrictions were unauthorized by law.
In a separate case, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's ruling that found Hunter was in contempt of court for banning Enquirer reporters from her courtroom -- even after the appeals court ordered her to let them in.
The criminal charges she now faces could remove her from office if she is ultimately convicted.
A summons will be issued for Hunter to appear for arraignment.
Prosecutors said this is an ongoing investigation and additional charges may be filed.
WCPO's Tom McKee contributed to this report