After more than two hours of testimony from family, friends and colleagues, there's been no sentences decided in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating case.
Ten out of 11 former educators found guilty of racketeering April 1 are due to be sentenced today by Judge Jerry Baxter. They face prison sentences ranging from five to 20 years because of the hefty RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) against them. The hearing is still in session.
One defendant, former Dunbar Elementary School first-grade teacher Shani Robinson, was pregnant at the time of the conviction, and will be sentenced in August.
The judge is hearing character witnesses for all the educators before making any decisions in the case. He called the case the “saddest thing I’ve ever seen" and said he tried to warn the educators who stood trial about the penalties they faced if found guilty, even warning them again mid-way through the trial.
"It was like watching a slow train wreck," he said. "No one got off."
"I think the verdict spoke the truth," he said. "I am going to do the best I can."
Breaking the format, former Dobbs Elementary principal Dana Evans spoke directly to the judge on her own behalf. During the trial, Evans drew the most sympathy from the judge and jury who felt she was a good person who made bad decisions under pressure.
Evans said she is broke and can't get a job despite having a near-perfect grade point average in college. She's been shackled, spent time in jail and her reputation ruined by the arrest and trial. That's punishment enough, she said.
“I know you may want to hear an admission of guilt, but I can’t do that because it’s not the truth," she said. "But I am willing to say I’m sorry … for the distrust the public now has in public education. I’m sorry that I had teachers who elected to do things that were in opposition to what I told them to do, and I was unable to uncover it, and I am sorry."
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