The longest criminal trial in Georgia’s history, which began in August with jury selection and ended on April 1 with the conviction of 11 educators on racketeering and other charges for cheating on tests, reached the sentencing phase earlier this week. Judge Jerry Baxter sentenced nine educators to prison or jail, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The paper broke the story in 2008 with superb investigative journalism about educators who changed students’ answers on standardized tests from wrong to right. Reporters and analysts had noticed scores at some schools improved much more than would be possible under normal circumstances, which raised eyebrows. After some investigation, the cheating was revealed.
Of the 11 educators who were found guilty in connection with the cheating and cover-up, two decided to take a deal that resulted in lesser sentences but a waiver of their right to appeal. Nine educators, who refused to admit wrongdoing, even after their convictions, decided they would forego a plea deal that had been hammered out by prosecutors and encouraged by the judge. Their sentences were longer, but all are currently free awaiting appeal:
- Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams, and Michael Pitts were sentenced to seven years in prison, 13 years probation, 2,000 hours of community service, and a $25,000 fine.
- Dana Evans was sentenced to one year in prison, four years probation, and 1,000 hours of community service.
- Angela Williamson and Tabeeka Jordan were sentenced to two years in prison, three years probation, 1,500 hours of community service, and a $5,000 fine.
- Theresia Copeland and Diane Buckner-Webb were sentenced to one year in prison, four years probation, 1,000 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine.
- Based on a plea deal accepted before sentencing, Donald Bullock was sentenced to six months of weekends in jail, five years probation, a $5,000 fine, 1,500 hours of community service, and an apology.
- Based on a plea deal accepted before sentencing, Pamela Cleveland was sentenced to five years of probation with one year of home confinement, 1,000 hours of community service, a $1,000 fine, and an apology.
- Shani Robinson gave birth at the time of sentencing and will be sentenced in August.
Dessa Curb, a former teacher at Dobbs Elementary, was found not guilty. Beverly Hall, who was the superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools when the cheating occurred, died on March 2 and never stood trial.
Several other educators named in the indictment pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and other charges. None of them were sentenced to jail time or prison, the Journal-Constitution reported.