Indicted Ohio judge's trial could come in June

AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A juvenile court judge accused of misusing county credit cards and backdating court documents could go on trial as early as June, the judge overseeing her case said Tuesday.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter, 47, did not attend a court hearing for scheduling matters on Tuesday. She has pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges of tampering with evidence, forgery and theft in office.

Because Hunter's attorney recently was replaced with a new one, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel postponed the scheduling hearing until March 26, when he said that Hunter's trial likely will be set for June or September, depending on the availability of all the parties.

Hunter's new attorney, Clyde Bennett, declined to comment on the case Tuesday.

Hunter, who was released from custody pending her trial, was last in court on Jan. 17 to plead not guilty.

The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified her from hearing cases after she was indicted and appointed a retired judge to help handle her caseload until her charges are resolved. The state's high court had earlier held her in contempt for continuing to bar newspaper reporters from hearings.

Her January indictment followed an investigation by two special prosecutors that was prompted by a memo accusing Hunter or someone in her office of backdating court documents in "a conscious act of deception."

In a Sept. 13 memo to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, chief assistant prosecuting attorney Bill Breyer wrote that the first case of backdating related to a July 23 oral ruling by Hunter preventing prosecutors from introducing evidence at a trial. Prosecutors had one week to appeal the written order. It was filed Aug. 22 but was backdated to appear as though it were filed July 23, according to the memo, which cited an affidavit obtained from the court's software provider.

Another ruling was backdated by a week, the memo stated.

Hunter also is accused of using her county-issued credit card to pay court fees stemming from lawsuits against her and ordering that her brother -- who provided security for the court before he was fired -- be paid overtime.

Hunter became a judge in 2012 following a lengthy legal battle over disputed 2010 juvenile judge election results. After her indictment, Hunter suggested that there were opponents to her because of changes she wants in juvenile court and because she is a black Democrat.

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