Breaking News
More () »

Oberlin College: Gibson's Bakery verdict could have 'chilling effect on free speech'

A jury awarded Gibson's $44 million dollars in a libel case against Oberlin College last week

OBERLIN, Ohio — About a week after a jury awarded a bakery $44 million dollars in a libel case against Oberlin College, the school’s president is speaking out – once again denying claims that it aided and abetted students during a racially-charged protest against Gibson’s Bakery. 

The Gibsons sued the college and a top administrator for defamation and inflicting emotional distress.  The college responded to the judgment – saying they were disappointed in the jury’s decisions, denying they defamed the bakery. 

Protests erupted outside of Gibson’s bakery in November of 2016 – accusing the bakery of racial profiling after a Black Oberlin student was arrested for shoplifting. Police say the student tangled with an employee – and two other students got involved. 

All three were charged and all three later pled guilty and issued statements saying that the Gibsons’ actions were not racially motivated. Later, Gibson's sued the college for libel, claiming that the college egged on students and interfered with their business. 

The jury awarded the bakery $44 million dollars. 

RELATED: Gibson's Bakery lawyers after $44 million verdict: Jury did what Oberlin College wouldn't

Oberlin President Carmen Ambar denies the libel claims, saying in a conference call, "The college did not defame the plaintiffs or libel anyone. And in fact, the college never produced the flyers that was in question or the senate resolution that was in question."

The college went on to say that the claim that the dean of students was at the protest to egg on the students was not true. 

"It was really about her role to maintain a safe and lawful environment, not just for the students, but for anyone in the surrounding community," Ambar added.

Oberlin College says they tried to deescalate the situation, suspending only a portion of their business with the Gibson’s for a period time. 

"So the notion that the institution can be held vicariously libel for the student speech because of its efforts to deescalate the protests would have a profound chilling effect on free speech," Ambar warned. 

Jim Donovan welcomed Gibson family attorneys Lee Plakas and Owen Rarric to our studios for Monday's Donovan Live. You can watch the interview in the player below:

I actually got a chance to sit down with the Gibson family and their attorneys to talk about the $44 million dollar verdict in a Channel 3 news exclusive.

They talked about what it was like to be targeted as a racist business, and the toll it took on the family both personally, and professionally.  You can see our exclusive interview Tuesday on Channel 3 News at 6 and 11. 

RELATED: Shoppers fill Oberlin bakery in response to protests

Before You Leave, Check This Out