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APS educators start turning themselves in

Information from the AJC was used in this report

 

The first two Atlanta Public School teachers plan to surrender at the Fulton County jail around daybreak, starting what is expected to be a long march of indicted educators.

35 former Atlanta public school employees have been ordered to give themselves up after the grand jury handed up its indictments in the CRCT cheating scandal.

If the educators time it right, they might not have to spend any time in jail before a trial. Some have made arrangements for bond and arrived at the jail early enough to be processed before court sessions start.

“We plan on surrendering Monday morning around 7 or 7:30,” said attorney Gerald Griggs, who represents teachers Starlette Mitchell and Angela Williamson. “We have made arrangements for bond. That’s why they are turning in so early.”

Griggs says the two teachers hope to make the 11 a.m. first-appearance calendar for the judge at the jail Monday.

The 65-count indictment returned Friday alleges racketeering, false statements and other charges related to alleged cheating on standardized test scores and the covering up of those actions.

The educators have until Tuesday to turn themselves in. Once processed in the jail, they will have to go before a magistrate, where bond is discussed.

While some teachers might be able to avoid jail time by meeting bond, Retired Atlanta school Superintendent Beverly Hall will have to bring a lot of cash with her.

The grand jury said Hall’s bond should be set at $7.5 million, but the judge can set a lesser amount.

Clearly furious at Hall, District Attorney Paul Howard made it clear the Fulton County grand jury that indicted her along with 34 others in the CRCT cheating scandal wanted to make sure she stays behind bars.

“This is their recommendation: $7.5 million for Dr. Hall,” Howard said during a news conference Friday.

“Bond cannot be placed at a prohibitive amount. If it is, it is unconstitutional,” said WSB legal expert Ron Carlson.

However, Carlson says one of the allegations in the indictment is witness intimidation. That, he said, could play a factor when a magistrate sets bail for Dr. Hall, sometime between now and the end of business tomorrow.

Investigators concluded that Hall, who retired from APS in July 2011, knew or should have known about cheating.

Bonuses for Hall and top administrators were the rewards for improved test scores.

Hall is charged with one count of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and four other charges, which could mean up to 40 years in prison if she is convicted. The indictment portrays her at the center of the alleged wrongdoing that resulted in criminal charges against 34 other people, including the highest levels of the Hall administration.

Hall’s lawyer, Richard Deane, a former U.S. attorney, could not be reached for comment Saturday, but he said in a statement released Friday that the former superintendent denies involvement in any cheating on the CRCT and has done nothing wrong.

Prosecutors said those indicted Friday are likely facing their first experience with the criminal justice system and being accused of a crime.

The prison sentence for a racketeering conviction is five to 20 years. The other crimes listed in the indictment — false statements and writings, false swearing, theft by taking and influencing witnesses — have prison sentences of one to five years.

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