Schools/Education Atlanta Public Schools

Published on May 3rd, 2015 |

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APS trial judge reduces 3 harshest sentences in test cheating cases

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter on Thursday (April 30) sharply reduced the sentences for Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts who had received the harshest prison terms in the city’s standardized test cheating trial.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Baxter describes his feelings when sentencing the Atlanta Public school educators for racketeering charges in one of the largest U.S. test-cheating scandals in Atlanta, GeorgiaEach had their prison terms reduced from the seven years and 13 on probation originally levied by Judge Baxter to the new sentence of three years in prison and seven on probation. Each also fined and sentenced to community service.

“I want to modify the sentence so I can live with it,” Baxter said.

The three former district regional directors were the highest-ranking of the 11 former educators convicted of racketeering. The original sentences were more than double what prosecutors had recommended.

The original fines for each defendant also was reduced to $10,000, compared to the original sentence of a $25,000 fine. Each also must perform 2,000 hours community service, which is unchanged from Judge Baxter’s original sentence.

In 2013, 35 educators were indicted on charges including racketeering, making false statements and theft. Many pleaded guilty before the trial, and some testified at the months-long trial.

The jury on April 1 acquitted one of the 12 former educators who went to trial and convicted the other 11 of racketeering. Ten were sentenced April 13. The 11th recently gave birth and is set to be sentenced later this year.

Aside from the three former district regional directors, the defendants who didn’t take the deals received prison terms of one or two years, with the remainder of their five-year sentences to be served on probation. Most sentences also include community service and a fine.

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