Administrators claim feeling like criminals after cheating scandal indictments

by: WSBTV.com<\/a> web staff Updated:

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ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned that former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall is not in Jamaica like previously reported and is expected to turn herself in on Tuesday.

Hall was one of the high-ranking APS administrators named in an indictment that included a total of 35 teachers, administrators and other APS staff members who were said to be involved in changing test scores on the CRCT exams across the district.

We also broke on Twitter that District Attorney Paul Howard now is recommending lower bonds for those accused.

Many of the 35 people indicted have never been arrested in their lives. That's why their attorneys scrambled to the Fulton County Jail Monday to try to speed up the process.

Attorney Bob Rubin told Channel 2's Carl Willis this is a surreal time for those embroiled in the APS cheating scandal.

"Even the idea of sitting in Fulton County Jail for a couple of hours waiting for their bond to be processed is frightening," Rubin said.

Rubin represents former Dobbs Elementary Principal Dana Evans and former Stanton Elementary Principal Willie Davenport.

He met with Willis after visiting the district attorney's office to try to reduce the amount of time his clients will spend getting processed in the system.

"It's not uncommon to negotiate a bond and see if everybody can agree on an amount, that's what I'm trying to do now. And that's what the other attorneys are trying to do, the same thing," Rubin said.

A total of 35 Atlanta Public school employees are expected in court Tuesday, accused of cheating on standardized tests.

Rubin said if their attorneys can't negotiate a bond, then the defendants will surrender Tuesday, likely early in the morning, to make the 11 a.m. hearing.

"I've spoken to an assistant district attorney from Fulton County about what's going to happen tomorrow and the truth is, no one really knows," Rubin said.

Rubin told Willis he will vigorously defend Davenport and Evans in court but said the court of public opinion may take extra work.

"We would just ask the public to withhold judgment, wait for the facts to play out and then at the end of the day you can judge for yourself what actually happened," Rubin said.

At this point, there's nothing set up to accommodate 35 people turning themselves in at the same time, according to Rubin.

He said that could be a real burden on the system Tuesday.

Channel 2 Action News learned late Monday afternoon that the warrants against the 35 indicted were filed with the court clerk.

 

"I feel like I have been professionally and personally assassinated"

Three top administrators who were indicted on Friday for their involvement in the APS cheating scandal are now blasting the charges.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne sat down with the three, who say they are disappointed by the charges.

"I feel like I have been professionally and personally assassinated without being heard," Dr. Sharon Davis-Williams told Winne.

"I am actually considered a criminal for doing the best I can for children all my life? That's sort of comical to me," Michael Pitts said.

"We are looking very forward to sharing the evidence that will clear all of our names, and my advice to anybody who has lied is I hope you understand the consequences of perjury," Tamara Cotman said.

All three told Winne they were disappointed to be defendants in the racketeering indictment Friday against 35 Atlanta Public School educators.

"We ask for the community not to condemn us, because the information that they have is very one-sided," Davis-Williams said.

All three former high-ranking APS officials said they will do more than mount a defense; they will go on the offensive.

"My faith was always present. Certainly this has made it a lot stronger," Cotman said.

"If you're not telling the truth, you're waving a red flag in the face of the prosecutors, aren't you?" Winne asked Pitts.

"I'm waving the truth flag," Pitts said.

"I am ready to go to trial," said George Lawson, the trio's attorney.

"Are you thinking about a speedy trial motion?" Winne asked.

"I've given it some considerations," Lawson said.

All three maintain their innocence in the wake of the CRCT cheating scandal.

"I have never been told to cheat," said Pitts, who is accused of activities under racketeer-influenced and corrupt organizations laws, known as RICO, and influencing witnesses.

"I have a right to be heard," Davis-Williams said, who is charged with RICO, false statements and false swearing. "We did not report directly to Dr. Hall. Nor did we meet individually with Dr. Hall. And I can tell you Dr. Hall has never, ever told me to cheat. Nor have I told anyone else to cheat."

"You must believe there was a lot of cheating going on?" Winne asked Cotman, who is accused of RICO and influencing witnesses.

"I know that there was cheating because as an executive director I had to deal with seven cases in seven years," Cotman responded.

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Paperwork issues keeps teachers from turning themselves in

At least one attorney representing indicted APS cheating scandal defendants tried Monday to get information on how his clients can turn themselves in but was turned away from the Fulton County Jail because of paperwork delays.

“I believe there is a lot of confusion,” said attorney Gerald Griggs, who is representing former Parks Middle School teacher Starlette Mitchell and former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Angela Williamson.

“The jail is indicating there’s been some snafu with the paperwork so we will continue to make contact with the jail to facilitate the turn-in,” Griggs told reporters waiting outside the jail. “Hopefully this will be resolved very soon.”

Griggs said it was “our expectation that we would be able to turn ourselves in and be heard as soon as possible. It’s our belief that we should be able to come and turn ourselves in if there is a valid warrant so we can clear the warrant and start the process of clearing their name.”

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