Judge cuts Atlanta teachers sentences in cheating trial

Judge Jerry Baxter cut three former Atlanta educators’ sentences by more than half Thursday, saying he wanted to do something he thought was more fair.

Gasps could be heard in the courtroom April 14 when Baxter hit former Atlanta school administrators Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis-Williams and Michael Pitts with 20-year sentences — seven to serve in prison and 13 on probation, and $25,000 fines.

Baxter’s change of legal heart led to these changes for the three:

Tamara Cotman, 44

Former School Reform Team executive director, responsible for supervising principals and overseeing progress at multiple schools

Guilty of racketeering

First sentence: seven years in prison and 13 years on probation, 2,000 hours of community service, $25,000 fine.

New sentence: three years in prison with seven on probation, 2,000 hours of community service, $10,000 fine.

Cotman, after her first sentencing, as to why she did not take a plea deal: “I would not be able to take a deal that would have perjured myself. I wasn’t able to compromise my integrity.”

Sharon Davis-Williams, 59

Former School Reform Team executive director, responsible for supervising principals and overseeing progress at multiple schools

Guilty of racketeering

First sentence: seven years in prison and 13 years on probation, 2,000 hours of community service, $25,000 fine.

New sentence: three years in prison with seven on probation, 2,000 hours of community service, $10,000 fine.

Davis-Williams, after her first sentencing: “I don’t plan to spend seven years in prison. I do have faith our justice system will work even though it’s failed me once.”

Michael Pitts, 59

Former School Reform Team executive director, responsible for supervising principals and overseeing progress at multiple schools.

Guilty of racketeering and influencing witnesses.

First sentence: seven years in prison and 13 years on probation, 2,000 hours of community service, $25,000 fine.

New sentence: three years in prison with seven on probation, 2,000 hours of community service, $10,000 fine.

Pitts comment to Judge Jerry Baxter after his first sentencing in April: “I just didn’t know (about cheating). If I would have known, I would have turned it in.”

Judge Jerry Baxter’s comment during the resentencing Thursday, “I’ve reduced your clients’ sentence from seven to three [years], that’s as much as I am willing to do.”

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