Wednesday, April 3, 2013

APS Educators Still Arriving At Jail

Five more of the 35 educators indicted in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal have arrived at the Fulton County Jail Wednesday, one day after the deadline for reporting to be booked.
Hall, others report to Fulton County Jail
What’s next in APS criminal case
Atlanta Public Schools

Hall, others report to the Fulton County Jail

By Mike Morris and Mark Niesse
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 
After just missing Tuesday’s midnight deadline to turn themselves in to authorities, four more of the 35 educators indicted in the Atlanta PublicSchools cheating scandal were booked into the Fulton County Jail early Wednesday. Another defendant arrived at the jail after daybreak Wednesday.
Dana Evans, Millicent Few, Diane Buckner Webb and Shani Robinson were booked into the jail after the midnight deadline, according to online jail records. Just before 8:30 a.m., Willie Davenport walked into the jail accompanied by her attorney.
That left just three of the 35 teachers, testing coordinators and school administrators - Lucious Brown, Clarietta Davis and Lera Middlebrook - that had still not surrendered at the jail as of 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to jail spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan.
Just after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, former Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall, walked into the jail surrounded by her legal team. Hall, 66, flashed a slight smile but did not comment, on the advice of her attorneys.
Hall Mug Shot
Shortly before Hall arrived, top administrators, Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts, came to the jail with a throng of lawyers and friends.
All of those who have turned themselves in, with the exception of Donald Bullock, have been released from jail on bond, Flanagan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at daybreak Wedensday.
Tuesday was the deadline set by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard for all of the accused to turn themselves in.
Some of the educators spent several hours in jail before posting bond amounts starting at $40,000.
Hall’s bond is $200,000 bond. A grand jury had recommended a $7.5 million bond, but that amount was reduced after negotiations with prosecutors.
“I don’t think there was really any serious entertainment of that,” said her attorney, David J. Bailey.
Teachers booked
Teachers moved from the school house to the jailhouse when they allowed themselves to be fingerprinted and taken into custody.
Three teachers from Humphries Elementary surrendered to authorities on charges of racketeering, making false statements and theft by taking.
Lisa Terry, Ingrid Abella-Sly and Wendy Ahmed are accused of altering standardized test scores in 2009 and then accepting bonus money based on the falsified test results. Abella-Sly and Ahmed both misled Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents when they claimed they didn’t have knowledge of anyone giving students answers to the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
At Parks Middle School, teacher Starlette Mitchell is accused of committing similar crimes, including making false statements to investigators. Her bond was originally $400,000, but negotiations with Howard resulted in her bond shrinking to $50,000 after she agreed to a gag order prohibiting her from speaking to the media about the case, said her attorney Gerald Griggs.
He also represents Angela Williamson, a former teacher at Dobbs Elementary. Williamson was the first educator to win an appeal for her job before an Atlanta Public Schools tribunal last June, but she lost a second tribunal in December after the district attorney’s office produced new evidence.
“They want everyone to know they are innocent and will fight this vigorously,” Griggs said.
Williamson’s bond was initially set at $500,000, but it was reduced to $60,000.
The attorney for teacher Francis Mack, Torris Butterfield, said his client did not cheat. “She gave not one, not two but three statements and she never changed her story,” he said.
Testing coordinators held
Former Benteen Elementary School testing coordinator Theresia Copeland was checked into the jail on charges of racketeering, theft and making false statements.
Copeland allegedly collected a bonus check based on falsified test results and misled investigators when she said she wasn’t involved in cheating, according to the indictment.
Her attorney, Warren Fortson, said he wants to Copeland’s $1 million bond to be reduced.
“I think this whole thing has turned into something rather ridiculous,” Fortson told reporters outside the jail. “They didn’t treat Al Capone like this.”
Fortson said a bond is meant to ensure that a defendant appears at trial.
“I would be very hopeful that a judge would look at it and say, ‘I don’t think that a Cobb County grandmamma needs … $1 million to secure that she will be here,’” he said.
Former Parks Middle School testing coordinator Sandra Ward received a $50,000 bond on charges of racketeering and making false statements.
The indictment claims Ward falsified students’ answer sheets on standardized tests and then took bonus money based on the inflated test scores.

What’s next for APS criminal case

By Rhonda Cook
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Now that defendants in the criminal case alleging cheating on standardized tests at Atlanta’s public schools have turned themselves in, what comes next is the great unknown.
The certainties are this:
  • All 35 former Atlanta Public Schools administrators and educators were required to surrender Tuesday at Fulton County Jail, where their mug shots and fingerprints were taken and entered into the national criminal database.
  • There was no way to get around going to the lockup on Rice Street.
  • Many lawyers negotiated lower bonds to get their clients released.
  • If defendants did not made arrangements for bond, they were to be given a physical exam and assigned to a cell block.

Once all that is settled, the arduous process of going to trial will begin. And that means uncertainties.
At least one motion to “quash” the indictment has been filed and more are likely.
Otherwise, defendants still have to enter pleas — most likely “not guilty” — and then schedules for legal proceedings such as discovery of evidence, motions and briefs will be set.
Some of the 35 named in the indictment may try to reach agreements with prosecutors, as is often the case in criminal trials. Some will want a trial, hoping for public exoneration.
In the coming weeks and months there will be more motions filed, hearings held and, somewhere down the road, perhaps a trial.