Ex-judge ordered to jail after years of legal challenges

CINCINNATI (AP) — A former juvenile court judge was jailed Monday, taken out of the courtroom with her feet dragging in an end to yearslong legal challenges to her sentence.

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A deputy with her arms under the defendant's shoulders pulled Tracie Hunter across the courtroom after she went limp. Supporters stood and yelled in anger, and deputies intercepted a woman who tried to rush to her.

There were more demonstrations outside the Hamilton County Courthouse, and civil rights activists said there will be boycotts or other actions in protest.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker ordered her six-month jail sentence carried out after a contentious hearing in which he read from postcards with critical comments sent to his home in Hunter's support. He called them an apparent intimidation attempt that "flat-out failed."

Hunter, 52, had gone to multiple courts to challenge her 2014 conviction and sentence on a felony count of unlawful interest in a public contract, which charged that she provided a confidential document to her brother when he faced a disciplinary hearing in his court job. A federal judge in May rejected her bid to avoid jail.

She had stood trial on either other counts that were dismissed after jurors couldn't agree on a verdict.

Defense attorney David Singleton said she has already endured years of uncertainty and lost her job and law license for what he called an unjust conviction and a sentence that is out of proportion.

"We believe it would be profoundly unjust and unfair and a waste of taxpayer dollars to incarcerate her for one minute," Singleton told the judge. He said she is needed to care for her elderly mother.

Attorneys for Hunter have contended the case against her was political. The Democrat took the bench after a disputed 2010 election.

"She has been punished enough," Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to Dinkelacker urging against jail time. He said she posed no violent threat to anyone.

However, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, a Republican, wrote to the judge that Hunter has never shown remorse.

"She has been incredibly disrespectful to you and the justice system," wrote Deters, who suggested she should undergo a mental evaluation.

Deters also asked Republican Gov. Mike DeWine to consider commuting her sentence. However, DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said Monday afternoon that the office hadn't received a request for clemency from Hunter herself.

Sheriff Jim Neil, a Democrat, said Monday afternoon that Hunter will be housed in the jail's medical facility, monitored by medical professionals and security staff.

"Ms. Hunter's well-being and safety will be my No. 1 priority," Neil said in a statement, adding that his staff will assess her eligibility for early-release programs.

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