Judge denies plea from Beverly Hall over cheating scandal

by: Mark Winne Updated:

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ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned why the judge overseeing the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal case rejected a possible plea deal for former superintendent Beverly Hall.
 

Hall has made clear through her legal team she maintains her innocence but there is one type of guilty plea where a defendant can still maintain his or her innocence.
 
We're told the prosecution and defense in the APS racketeering case had agreed on a plea deal in which Hall would enter a plea to a felony for a straight probation and restitution sentence but she would do it as what is called an Alford plea, where she does not admit guilt but says it is in her best interest to enter the plea.
 
But Judge Jerry Baxter rejected it, saying she needed to take responsibility if she pleaded guilty.
 
“Why would the judge turn down an Alford plea?” Channel 2’s Mark Winne asked attorney Quinton Washington, who handles education issues. “Well if he's been accepting guilty pleas on everybody else and Dr. Hall's allegedly at the top of the pyramid in terms of coordinating this, then I don’t think it would be fair for him to accept an Alford plea for her and not for the other people that have already pled guilty."
 
In court Thursday, Winne spotted Veleter Mazyck, who is the former APS chief general counsel, accompanied by a prominent attorney.
 
“She here to cooperate?” Winne asked her attorney Seth Kirschenbaum.
 
“We anticipate that Ms. Mazyck is a witness in this case,” Kirschenbaum said. 
  
A court document suggests Mazyck was one of Hall's most trusted advisers and part of her executive cabinet.
 
“Are you meeting with the DA's office now?” Winne asked Kirschenbaum.
 
“I can’t answer that question now, Mark,” Kirschenbaum said.