8 of 10 Atlanta educators in cheating scandal sentenced to prison

Judge Jerry Baxter gave each educator two options during Monday's sentencing hearing: take a deal or risk going to prison. 

The deal included weekends in jail instead of prison time. In return, they would have to accept their guilt and give up their rights to appeal. He gave them until 10 a.m. today to make the decision.

Judge Jerry Baxter warned educators Monday that they would face stiff punishment unless they admitted to guilt and waived their right to appeal. He delivered on that promise Tuesday, dolling out punishments to administrators Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts that elicited gasps and sobs from spectators in the courtroom, according to ajc.com.

“Everyone starts crying about these educators. There were thousands of children harmed in this thing. This is not a victimless crime,” Baxter said.

As of the time court resumed this morning, only one defendant, Donald Bullock, accepted the DA's office deal for sentencing.

Bullock read a statement apologizing and accepting responsibility for racketeering and making false statements. Bullock was given 5 years probation, 6 months of weekends in jail, a $5,000 fine and 1,500 hours of community service.

The state recommended sentences for the rest of the defendants: five years to serve three for Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman and Michael Pitts; five years to serve two for Dana Evans, Tabeeka Jordan and Angela Williamson, five years to serve one for Theresia Copeland, Pamela Cleveland and Diane Buckner-Webb.

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Things got heated in the courtroom before the judge handed down sentences.

When one lawyer raised his voice, Baxter fired back, "Sit down or I'm going to put you in jail."

Baxter then started sentencing each remaining defendant -- with the first three getting more time than the state recommended. Baxter sentenced School Resource Team Executive Directors Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman and Michael Pitts as first offenders to 20 years with seven to serve, 13 years probation, 2,000 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine.

First offender status will allow them to clear their records after the sentence is served so they won't be a convicted felon for life.

Former Dobbs Elementary principal Dana Evans received a sentence of five years to serve one, four years probation, 1,000 hours of community service and she was sentenced as a first offender.

Angela Williamson, a former teacher at Dobbs Elementary, and Tabeeka Jordan, former Deerwood Elementary Assistant Principal, were sentenced as first offenders to the state’s recommendation of five years to serve two, three years probation, 1,500 hours of community hours and $5,000 fine

Former Dunbar Elementary teacher Diane Buckner-Webb  and Former Benteen Elementary Testing Coordinator Theresia Copeland were sentenced as first offenders to five years to serve one, four years probation, 1,000 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine.

Dunbar Elementary Teacher Pamela Cleveland was the final educator to be sentenced. She decided at the last minute to take a deal and admit guilt. She received five years probation, 1,000 hours of community service, curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the first year and a $1,000 fine. She was sentenced as a first offender.

The defendants were then required to return to jail for processing, but have been granted an appeals bond.

"We never had a goal of putting people in jail," District Attorney Paul Howard said after the sentencing.

At a news conference with Howard, the mother of a former APS student affected by the trial spoke.

"I have no pity for what happened to them today. It is what it is," she said.

Howard told the public he wants parents and children impacted by the cheating to contact the district attorney's office.

Return to wsbtv.com and ajc.com for further updates.

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