Wow. Almost a dirty dozen. Jury finds 11 APS educators guilty of conspiring.

At long last, the verdict is in.

Her illness and death prevented former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall from having her day in court, but today 11 other APS educators were convicted.  (AJC File,)

Her illness and death prevented former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall from having her day in court, but today 11 other APS educators were convicted. (AJC File,)

And there are more guilty votes than I expected.

The Fulton County jury found 11 of the 12 educators guilty of conspiring to change answer sheets to protect their jobs and their schools.

While the 11 were found guilty of racketeering for allegedly cheating on the CRCT, the verdicts varied for some of the lesser felony charges they faced.

Former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Dessa Curb was acquitted of all charges.

This painful chapter is now over for the Atlanta schools. I suspect APS leaders want to put this behind them and focus on the future.

Was it the right ending? Were these charges justified given the testimony that suggested many of these educators were not up to the expectations — unrealistic and unrelenting as they turned out to be — of APS leadership.

These folks were weak. But the jury also found them criminal.

Right decision?

According to the AJC:

A racketeering indictment could mean a 20-year prison sentence. The other felonies carry prison sentences of as much as five and 10 years each.

The trial stretched five months with 162 witnesses who took the stand. Thousands of pages of testimony was introduced. Closing arguments lasted three days.

The former educators are accused of conspiring to change answers on the 2009 CRCT to artificially inflate scores to satisfy federal benchmarks. The prosecution said bonuses and raises were awarded based on test scores.

The alleged cheating was discovered when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported inexplicable spikes in test scores. Eventually, a criminal investigation was opened which led to a 29-count indictment two years ago. Two of those counts have been dropped, leaving 27 for the jury to consider.

Before the cheating was exposed, the narrative of the Atlanta school system was it was a vastly improving district that took a no-nonsense approach to teachers and administrators who did not meet its high academic standards. Its superintendent, Beverly Hall, won national awards.

The AJC has compiled a photo gallery of the defendants and the verdicts.

Here are the defendants and verdicts for each as assembled by WSB:

  • Sharon Davis-Williams, School Resource Team Executive Director
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 5: False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 6: False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
  • Tamara Cotman, School Resource Team Executive Director
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
  • Michael Pitts, School Resource Team Executive Director
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 4: Influencing witnesses – GUILTY
  • Dana EvansDobbs Elementary Principal
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 9: False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 10: False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 12: False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 14: False statements and writings – GUILTY
  • Angela Williamson, Dobbs Elementary teacher
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 9: False statements and writings – GUILTY
    • Count 15: False statements and writings – GUILTY
    • Count 16: False swearing – GUILTY
    • Count 17: False swearing – GUILTY
  • Dessa Curb, Dobbs Elementary teacher
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 11: False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 13: False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
  • Shani Robinson, Dunbar Elementary teacher
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 18: False statements and writings – GUILTY
  • Pamela Cleveland, Dunbar Elementary teacher
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 18: False statements and writings – GUILTY
    • Count 20: False statements and writings – GUILTY
  • Diane Buckner-Webb, Dunbar Elementary teacher
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 18: False statements and writings – GUILTY
    • Count 19: False statements and writings – GUILTY
  • Tabeeka Jordan, Deerwood Elementary Asst. Principal
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 21: False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 22: Theft by taking – NOT GUILTY
  • Donald Bullock, Usher-Collier Heights Elementary Testing Coordinator
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 23 – False statements and writings – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 24 – False statements and writings –GUILTY
    • Count 25 – False statements and writings – GUILTY
    • Count 26 – False statements and writings – GUILTY
  • Theresia Copeland, Benteen Elementary Testing Coordinator
    • Count 1: Violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – GUILTY
    • Count 27: Theft by taking – NOT GUILTY
    • Count 29: False statements and writings – GUILTY

Reader Comments 0

55 comments
eulb
eulb

I'm relieved that the jury was able to work together, follow the judge's instructions, and return real verdicts.  A hung jury in this case would have been a disaster.

I don't relish seeing anyone go to prison,  but the jury doesn't decide that part.  The jury decides what happened, they find facts by weighing evidence.  They apparently found -- beyond a reasonable doubt -- evidence of conspiracy.  They examined each individual defendant's role in that conspiracy.  Hence the differing verdicts for specific individuals, including complete acquittal for one defendent.


Regarding prison sentences -- that's the judge's call to make, not the jury's.  There are guidelines he must follow, but he also has some leeway/discretion. 

 I'm glad the jury did their own job and didn't try to do the judge's job for him.  If we had wound up with a hung jury or acquittals all around, I would suspect they were trying to prevent prison sentences.  That would be usurping the judge's role.  This jury apparently took their role seriously and performed it well.  I'm proud of them.


66yrs99pct
66yrs99pct

I am sick of the statements of outrage from those in power within the Black community regarding "these educators" being sent to prison.  Seems to me if these people had been doing their jobs as educators instead of cheating their students out of an education - they wouldn't be where they are today.  They opted to face the jury instead of taking a plea agreement (when many others did), so it is only fair and just that they now serve the time for the crimes they committed against, not only their students but, the parents and other taxpayers who afforded them their salaries and bonuses and lauded kudos on those school districts when no real or actual merit was worthy of any of them.  Calling these people "educators" is a blatantly false description .... educators educate - they don't cheat the very kids they are paid to teach.  They are the reason Johnny can't read!


TopSchoolAtlanta
TopSchoolAtlanta

And only 50 comments. Why I remember the day when this page would be filled with comments. What's happened?


TopSchoolAtlanta
TopSchoolAtlanta

Cheating in Atlanta Public Schools and today's chapter in the horse & pony show. The criminal minds of the Buckhead Business Coalition and Atlanta Chamber of Commerce were the ones responsible for forcing the increases in fake test scores. Their buddies created the (racketeering) manipulation of student achievement to bring businesses to Atlanta by any means possible. Increasing the test scoring was the leverage needed to encourage businesses to move to Atlanta, creating more building contracts increasing the money flow to BUCKHEAD business owners. Now, these teachers and administrators are their scapegoats. (Notice the head administrator Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine is no where to be found. She did not testify nor were any charges brought against her. She is sitting quietly somewhere with her Buckhead hush money.) Are you PROUD of this fake accomplishment BUCKHEAD??? Yet, another game of smoke and mirrors by attorneys and judges, friends of the Georgia State Professional Standards Commission - John Grant and the Warren Fortson clan. This parade takes the eyes off the guilty Atlanta city leaders and keeps the focus on low level minions. The actual guilty racketeering minds are the same ones that created the fake numbers in bank mortgage loans that took down Wall Street. They are responsible for creating the idea to fake the rise in APS test scores while using the high ranking APS administrators to enforce their dirty deeds. Beverly might be dead...but Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine still lives. Buckhead protected Hall with bonus checks before and after the cheating scandal was exposed. They promised her she'd never stand trial and shoved some money under the table to Kathy Augustine to keep her mouth shut, too. The ex-leader of APS is conveniently dead, but her assistant is still living with all the dirty details. Deceiving is the name of this Buckhead / Atlanta game. A 2015 version of yet another lynching in the ATL. Shameful. Ethics start from the top down. Start with Governor's office and his motley crew - the good old boys of Atlanta. Their mentality started this mess. Atlanta School Board Members ( some past and present ) know the political DEAL involved in this corruption. Some of us, aren't so blind and actually have the experiences within APS to know the TRUTH behind this fake story of justice. Have some of Minny's pie.... #APS #AtlantaPublicSchools

BCW1
BCW1

Finally, somebody held accountable for bad behavior!!! I see teaching license revoked and suspended sentences with probation.

frogg
frogg

@brandonmom Investigation on that is supposed to be complete this Friday. 


BubbaTJ
BubbaTJ

"A racketeering indictment could mean a 20-year prison sentence."

They were convicted.  The indictment was a long time ago.  Convictions lead to sentences.





popacorn
popacorn

Any way these criminals can get this erased from their record? After all, it's all about the children. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

While the AJC eventually did join in in calling out the cheating, I recall how resistant some members of the AJC staff were to the idea that the scores were impossible.  They continued for quite a while to follow the Hall train of causation.

hssped
hssped

Wow...and again the silence from the NAACP is deafening.  There would have been celebration parades in the street had this been a white on black crime.  Too bad Hall didn't have to go to trial.  I guess Karma took care of her.  

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

This is wrong.  Should these cheaters ever be allowed to teach anyone, anywhere again? No.  Should they be sent to prison (maybe for 20 years!)?  No.


Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

Percy, and now Maureen wants to bury this news by posting four more blogs on top of this one. Very clear Downey wants to live in denial . I also noticed the "alleged cheating." Convicted is not alleged. Convicted is guilty.
Pride goes before a fall.
The prouder they are, the harder they fall.
And the selfishness is outrageous.

One criminal had the nerve to get pregnant to avoid going to jail immediately, which worked.
No thought at all to the child she would be bringing into the world -- only she mattered, not her innocent unborn child. Of course, now we taxpayers will have to pay to raise that child and some other person will have to actually care for that child and that innocent child will have to live with the knowledge that his/her mother is a convicted felon. He or she will have early memories of visiting mommy in jail.
Yes, extreme selfishness indeed.
 

popacorn
popacorn

@Betsy Ross1776 I noticed the immediate posting on top of this story also. The folks so many defended are at this moment in prison. Quick, let's think of something else to talk about, because if we were so wrong about this, we may be dead wrong about lots more!

Percy
Percy

"allegedly cheating" and "alleged cheating"


There has been a trial and a conviction.  The cheating is no longer alleged; they were cheating. 

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

So quiet. Hardly any comments tonight. 
Just goes to show you a lot of people are stunned with the verdict.
It must be shocking to learn there is a criminal justice system -- even in Atlanta.
If only it worked as well in DeKalb county.
The good news -- the precedent is set.
No longer can arrogant criminals think that RICO will never be used against them.
This is a victory for the justice system, a victory for Atlanta's school children and a victory for citizens and taxpayers.
Thank you, AJC.
Thank you for investigating.
Thank you jury for doing the right thing.
Thank you to the judge who said "They made their bed. Now they have to lie in it."
Yes, a cot in a jail cell.
The judge begged and pleaded with those arrogant fools and they turned up their nose and dug in their heels and thought there was no way they would be convicted. Yet, here it is, 9:19. Bet they're wearing their prison jammies right now.
It's been a long ten years but it finally happened. Justice is served. :)

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

Ed Johnson, grade changing at a high school? Which one? When? Please send us links to the news story. I appreciate it.
 

EdUktr
EdUktr

I wonder if the "surprise" verdicts don't hint at how impatient Atlanta residents have become with failing schools? 

And what might this portend about the chances of next year's ballot initiative creating an Opportunity School District to rescue children from chronically failing public schools?

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@EdUktr


Are you suggesting the members of the jury found the defendants guilty in order to show their impatience with "failing schools"rather than as a result of the evidence?  I certainly hope not, since a trial is NOT supposed to be an opportunity to make a "statement" but rather a chance to seek justice about a very particular event or crime.  

popacorn
popacorn

@Quidocetdiscit @EdUktr All people, judges and jurors included, are sick to death of this crap. It showed in the verdict and will show in the sentences. 

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@popacorn @Quidocetdiscit @EdUktr


So I assume you were okay with the OJ Simpson verdict in which jurors later admitted they thought he was guilty, but they found him not guilty because they felt it only fair a black man get away with things that white men had been getting away with for years?  What you are suggesting is that jurors should make decisions based, not upon the evidence of the case, but upon personal biases and agendas.  That is wrong and suggests a lack of integrity on the part of jurors.  Frankly, if I were one of the jurors on this case, I would find your insinuations insulting.  I have never believed in using the law to "make an example" of people.  Either laws are applied the same to ALL people or our system of justice becomes meaningless.  You might be okay with that, but I am not.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Now guess how and why systemic cheating and robbing children of living into the best quality education they can continues.  Hint: With the new superintendent and mostly new board has come a new how but the why remains the same.


How sad for everyone who got caught up in the sordid mess Hall spawned.


Worse is APS bothering to learn nothing from the mess.  Just move on to a "New Day" and the spawning of yet another mess.  So now an investigation into grade changing at a high school.  Why would anyone be surprised.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Yeah, too bad Beverly Hall couldn't have spent some time in jail. 

popacorn
popacorn

When a learned, cultural, world-class ability to deny, deflect, and lie goes terribly wrong 

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

Ah, Gactzn2, you must have been in the dark believing that these fools would get away with their crimes.
I guess today sucks for you.
Too bad.
We're celebrating over here! Victory! Justice has been served!

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Betsy Ross1776 No- on the contrary- I believe the judicial process ran its course. It is still so sad for the families. I do not rejoice in anyone's troubles- no matter the circumstances.

gactzn2
gactzn2

Betsy Ross 1776 is gone with the wind again- 

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

The prosecution begged and pleaded with these low-lifes to take a plea bargain but those criminals were haughty and arrogant and believed their own bad press.
But they didn't...
And now they go to jail, directly to jail without passing Go and without going home.
I am positively delighted!
For years Maureen and her ilk have been portraying these low-lifes as martyrs.
She is "surprised" by the verdict.
That just goes to show you how far out of touch she is with reality.
Atlanta is sick of corruption. Sick of crime. Sick of people like Cotman and her arrogant, ignorant defiance.
Let this be a lesson to the educrats --- we're watching you.
And most of all.
THANK YOU AJC!
Thank you for uncovering this crime. Thank you for bringing it to light. Thank you for investigating.
You deserve an award, AJC, for real, important, journalism, for being the watchdog of our government. For being the fourth estate.
Cheers everyone!
AMEN! 

Betsy Ross1776
Betsy Ross1776

Hallelujah!
I am so proud of the jury.
Justice has prevailed!  

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Shocker. I just didn't think that a jury would have the courage to actually convict these educators under  the RICO Act. Unfortunately, Dr. Hall passed before she could face justice.   No one wins here, especially the children affected by the scandal.    I pray that this chapter can finally be closed and APS can reinvent itself and provide a quality education for each and every child regardless of socioeconomic circumstances.

bu2
bu2

Thanks to the jurors who had to spend an enormous amount of time on this.


I think it should have been broken into multiple trials-probably 4 or 5.  It would have been a lot easier to absorb the evidence and been a series of shorter trials.  Of course, there would have been different juries.


Still it seems that justice was done.

TeachSS
TeachSS

These teachers were full of "pride" (per the quote) by their actions. They falsified test answer sheets and benefited them in the form of bonuses, good evals and the sense of superiority. They had to be found guilty in order to tell others - teachers, accountants, anybody - that it is illegal and cannot be tolerated.


As for the children, this is a well-know low/struggling set of students in this district. These teachers were not guilty of failing to teach - just to be honest with testing. Hopefully, these students continue to get work hard to be successful. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Maureen, it appears that, except for Ms. Curb, the only ones who got not guilties on anything were ADMINISTRATORS.  That is, that the teachers were held fully responsible on all charges, but their supervisors less so. Is this correct?

popacorn
popacorn

What a tangled web we weave...

class80olddog
class80olddog

I am particularly glad to see Tamara Cotman convicted.

Astropig
Astropig

@class80olddog 

Amen. She was Hall's hatchet person, and I believe she told the GBI to "go to hell". I hope she does every day of her sentence.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Surprising, but a good ending.  Too bad Beverly Hall was not alive to at least see them convicted and fear for her own freedom.  These teachers and administrators should have taken the plea deal.


Beverly Hall should be blamed for creating the circumstances that led to these peoples' crimes - she in effect destroyed these 11 people's lives.  Hope she is happy, wherever she is.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

There will be a lot of reflection on what was said during and after this trial, but I have to think this comment is going to get a lot of attention:

Attorney Bob Rubin, who represents Dana Evans, former principal at Dobbs Elementary, said his client is really innocent.

“She was a servant leader. Know who else was a leader? Jesus Christ,” said Rubin.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/verdicts-aps-cheating-trial/nkdRN/

straker
straker

Starik 


And, will any of them ever teach again?

taylor48
taylor48

@straker Not with a felony conviction.  Not a single one of those educators, including the ones who pleaded guilty, will get a license to teach in any state.  Plus, every system in the country runs a criminal background check.  They may get a job teaching at a private school in a church basement, but that's about it.