By Sharon Danann
Published Mar 19, 2011 10:20 AM
On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Daniel Gaul had a young woman who was viciously beaten in an unprovoked attack by the police taken from the courtroom in handcuffs to start serving a six-month sentence. He denied bail for Rebecca Whitby, who has a 4-month-old daughter, while her appeal is pending.
Setting aside the fact-finding role of the jury, Gaul read a police report into the record and stated that “it would have been appropriate to have used deadly force to apprehend this defendant.” The jury found Whitby not guilty on seven out of nine counts, showing that they were skeptical of the statements of the cops and other prosecution witnesses.
Mitchell Sheehan, one of the officers allegedly injured by Whitby, read a statement, complete with crocodile tears, calling for Whitby to serve jail time so that she will not hurt other officers in the future. Sheehan punched Whitby repeatedly in the face and elsewhere, kicked her and tased her.
The courtroom packed with family members and supporters had been told ahead of time that the judge would use any reactions punitively against Whitby and her co-defendant, her mother (also named Rebecca Whitby). So a painful degree of restraint was exercised as Gaul proclaimed, “I am bringing my sense of social justice to this case. To suggest that she was abused by the police besmirches the memory of [civil rights leaders] Medgar Evers, John Lewis, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.” Some people left the courtroom.
Gaul declared that Whitby needed “punishment.” Her supporters knew it was punishment for reporting that the police had used excessive force on her and for the nearly two years of rallies, websites and YouTubes highlighting the cases that Gaul harped on several times.
Marva Patterson, the younger Whitby’s aunt, explained, “The harsh sentence is to make it harder for the family to sue the City of Cleveland. This is about the almighty dollar.”
Rebecca Whitby, the mother, was sentenced to two months probation and a six-month suspended sentence. She will fight to get the felony charge of obstruction of justice overturned on appeal.
Special chairs had been added to the courtroom so that it could also be packed with 20 police officers, all white. As the younger Whitby’s attorney, Scott Ramsey, pointed out, Gaul sees police officers frequently in his courtroom.
Whitby’s brother, Adam, commented, “It’s not justice when they’re working together.” Plans are being made to gather outside the women’s portion of the jail with signs of support for Whitby.