Grand jury hears evidence in APS cheating case

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

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ATLANTA - A grand jury who heard testimony regarding the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal wrapped up Wednesday night, and is expected to pick back up on Thursday, possibly hearing testimony until Friday.

Channel 2 Action News has learned there are 23 grand jurors involved in the case. Testimony began around 9:15 a.m. Wednesday.

Sources told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne witnesses included principals, teachers, testing coordinators, testing experts, parents, students, state education workers and others.

A person familiar with the case told Winne none of those testifying are expected to be charged with any crime and many of the witnesses tried to maintain integrity and were rewarded with retaliation.

The source told Winne erasure analysis will be critical to the case along with psychometrics, which is the measurement of mental traits, abilities and processes.

Winne learned bonuses for APS employees ranging from former Superintendent Beverly Hall to rank-and-file teachers will be part of the DA's case.

The source told Winne the proposed defendants in the drafted indictment include top administrators, principals and teachers.

The source indicated the grand jury is expected to hear from dozens of witnesses and will be presented with documents ranging from the test sheets themselves to documents signed by Hall herself.

Richard Deane, the attorney for Hall, said she continues to maintain her innocence regarding any allegations related to CRCT cheating or criminal wrongdoing. He said neither he nor Hall have been contacted by the DA or the grand jury.

Channel 2 Action News learned the proposed indictment is being built around a racketeering conspiracy.

Attorney Manny Arora told Channel 2’s Amy Napier Viteri a RICO charge is an odd move, but necessary.

“Is it unusual? Yes. But in a case like this it's very necessary,” Arora said.

At least 35 defendants are named in the proposed indictment, including ranking administrators, principals, teachers and others, the source acknowledged.

“Based on the number of defendants, in the dozens here, and a RICO indictment, (This) is going to read like a small encyclopedia,” Arora said.

Arora told Viteri that once the indictment is handed down, it will be a long process to the end of the case.

“Unfortunately most of the kids who are involved in this stuff will probably be in high school by the time this gets resolved,” Arora said.

Throughout the day Wednesday, Channel 2’s Richard Elliot saw several people coming and going inside the Fulton County District Attorney's Office, but because it was a secret grand jury hearing, the office would not confirm if any of the people were in fact there for the grand jury.

District Attorney Paul Howard told Elliot off camera that he realizes how important the case is to the public, but for now, he wants the grand jury to complete its duty so he will not be speaking until they are done.

Channel 2 Action News did get a statement from Atlanta Public Schools on Wednesday saying, "This is a legal matter between the individuals implicated and the Fulton County District Attorney's Office, and we will allow the legal process to take its course."

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