by: Mark Winne Updated:
ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned that lawyers representing about a third of the 33 remaining defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating case have inquired about reaching a plea deal.
Judge Jerry Baxter’s office confirmed to Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that he will schedule a date for the prosecution to put plea offers on the record for those who have not come to prosecutors on their own.
Baxter set a Jan. 6 deadline for the plea deals. The 33 defendants in the case have already pleaded not guilty to racketeering and corruption charges.
Winne asked District Attorney Paul Howard’s office to comment on the possible plea deals.
Howard said in a statement, “This case is not about blood or revenge, but rather about redemption for the children of this community who lost an important educational opportunity. Accordingly, we are willing to consider any reasonable offer if one is willing to tell the truth and accept responsibility. That is what we want -- no more and no less."
“Everybody would like to see a resolution of this matter because no one wants to see children be hurt,” defense attorney George Lawson said.
Lawson said his client, Michael Pitts, denies committing a crime and that he believes accepting criminal responsibility is a major barrier in the negotiations for several defendants.
“I’m of the opinion that every educator that has been charged in this thing is very, very disappointed that children may have been denied the opportunity to get a good education,” Lawson told Winne.