Source: Indictment drafted in APS cheating scandal

by: Mark Winne Updated:

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ATLANTA - A grand jury is hearing testimony regarding the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal Wednesday, and it is expected to continue through Friday.

Channel 2 Action News has reporters stationed across the city as the grand jury questions witnesses. There are 23 grand jurors involved. Channel 2's Richard Elliot has been monitoring developments at the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.

A source said jurors will hear evidence in the APS CRCT cheating scandal case, and that a lengthy proposed indictment has already been drafted. It includes racketeering and other charges. At least 35 defendants are named in the proposed indictment, including ranking administrators, principals, teachers and others, the source acknowledged.

“The Rico statute really allows a prosecutor to have broad reach and include just about everybody they can think in an indictment,” legal analyst Ashleigh Merchant said. “The prosecution can include a lot of the smaller fish involved in an organization and that way they can use those people to get to the bigger fish."

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne also learned that former superintendent Beverly Hall is a subject of the district attorney's investigation and prosecutors plan to bring her name up to the grand jury. On Wednesday, an attorney for Hall told Winne that she continues to maintain her innocence and that she hasn't been contacted by the grand jury or the district attorney's office.

Winne has spent the entire week inside the Fulton County Courthouse monitoring developments and observed  a large APS prosecution team outside the grand jury room Wednesday morning.

A state investigation implicated 178 educators, including 38 principals in 2011. Many were accused of falsifying scores on standardized state tests.

Attorney Bob Rubin said he's already been told some of his clients who are principals are listed.

“She didn't use the term racketeering but she led me to believe it would be a complicated indictment which to me indicates a racketeering charge,” Rubin said. “I am satisfied my clients are not guilty.”

The Fulton County District Attorney's Office conducted a criminal investigation, hiring an expert in the state's racketeering law.

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing several educators in the scandal told Winne that one of his APS clients was re-interviewed by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office last week as a witness.

While the District Attorney’s Office did not explicitly say so, the attorney said he had the impression authorities were confirming information from a previous interview for potential grand jury use.  The attorney said he believes from what he hears from clients and fellow lawyers that this educator was not the only one interviewed.

"Some of the key people that were involved in the investigation have left and new people have been assigned to handle this investigation, so I believe that's why they're reinterviewing witnesses at this point," Merchant said.