• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

False arrest of reporter covering Hunter trial still haunts woman, changed her life

By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

The near decade-long saga of Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter, especially the high drama court sessions, pulled an unsuspecting Herald reporter and Ph.D. candidate into near financial ruin and health issues, with a court finally awarding her $35,000 in damages, payment far from compensating her for what she has been living through, she said.

The reporter, Vanessa Enoch, a doctoral student at Union Institute & University at the time, was covering the Hunter trail in 2014 for the Herald and also as part of her degree requirement, when she was arrested by a Hamilton County deputy for taking photos at an impromptu press conference with Hunter’s attorney Clyde Bennett II outside the courtroom, just after one of the daily sessions ended. Approximately 20 reporters from Cincinnati’s media outlets were capturing events outside the courtroom, Enoch was also taking photos with her iPad, when two deputies yelled at her to stop. At that time, the presiding judge issued no prohibition as to use of electronic devices in the hallways of the courthouse, so Enoch as well as other reporters, sought to capture content. When she would not allow deputies to review confidential content on her iPad, she was arrested and taken to Hamilton County Justice Center, where she was held for more than an hour before being released. “I was never asked if I was a reporter,” she added.

Also, Avery Corbin, Hunter’s former bailiff, was arrested for recording video in the court hallways.

Only Enoch and Corbin, who are Black, were stopped, detained, handcuffed, arrested and transported to the County Sheriff’s Office for processing. None of the 16 White reporters in the hallway were prevented from using their recording devices.

Tracie Hunter was suspended from her court position after being charged with nine counts of misconduct, which were said to be politically motivated. One of the counts, securing a public contract, stuck, and she served three months in jail.

According to court records, during the press conference, deputies arrested Enoch, and she was taken to the Hamilton County Justice Center and chained to a chair. Deputies repeatedly ignored Enoch’s complaints that her handcuffs were too tight and causing significant pain, and that she wanted to use the restroom.   

She says the Sheriff’s Department then released a “false” press statement indicating she yelled at a deputy, refused to identify herself, and was disorderly. She was charged with a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct, released, and later appeared in court.

Both arresting deputies admitted that neither of them witnessed Enoch committing any unlawful act while she was inside or outside of the courtroom.

The media reports have continued to haunt her since the arrest, and she has dearly paid the consequences.

On July 21, 2014, as a direct result of her arrest and the charges, Enoch lost her job. She was notified via email that the company that she had been consulting for nearly a year and half had unexpectedly decided that it would not be renewing her employment agreement. The loss of her employment was financially devastating to Enoch and her family. It caused and continues to cause her great financial and emotion distress, court records state.

On or about August 1, 2014, all of the charges were dismissed by the City Prosecutor’s Office, and Judge Dwayne Mallory signed two separate entries of dismissal.

After the dismissal of the charges, Enoch commenced the prolonged application process of expunging the charges from her public records.

“The trauma and stress has changed my life forever,” Enoch said.

Having operated an IT consulting business, she lost her corporate client and is trying to grow her business back by servicing smaller businesses. Unable to pay her mortgage after the negative publicity, she lost her home through foreclosure auction, but was later able to get it back when it went up for sale after the original bidder backed out of the sale. Health-wise, she gained nearly 100 pounds and lost her hair, due to the constant stress she has been through, she said.

Enoch’s husband, a former Hamilton County deputy sheriff, died in 2009, and she raised her children, who are now adults, as a single mother.

On August 1, 2014, all charges against Corbin were dismissed by the Hamilton County Municipal Court. A jury found that Corbin’s civil rights were not violated. After dismissal, Corbin commenced a prolonged application process to have the charges expunged from the public record.

Court records state Corbin has suffered significant emotional trauma, professional humiliation and financial loss and will continue to suffer such injury and loss in the future, as a direct result of the conduct of defendants as described above.