Atlanta schools defendants must turn selves in by Tuesday

None of the 35 people indicted for their alleged involvement in cheating in Atlanta public schools had surrendered to the Fulton County Jail Saturday.

But they have until Tuesday to turn themselves in so that could come any day until then.

In non-violent crimes and in high-profile cases it is not unusual to allow the defendants time to get their lives in order and line up bond before they are required to report to jail.

Once they are booked in, all 35 will make a first appearance where bond will be discussed and, most, likely released within hours. That first court appearance could come as soon as a few hours after they report to the jail, depending on how early in the morning they surrender. Otherwise, they will not go to court until the next morning.

On Friday, a Fulton County grand jury indicted former Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 others — top aides, principals, teachers and a secretary — for racketeering as well as theft by taking for the bonuses they received for good test scores or making false statements or writings, charges that provided the basis for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization count.

Though the grand jury said Hall’s bond should be set at $7.5 million, a judge will decide how much Hall and the others have to put up to be released from jail.

The indictment came 20 months after the release of a scathing report in which state investigators detailed what they called a decade of systemic cheating in Atlanta Public Schools. The investigators concluded that Hall, who retired from APS in the same month the report was released in July 2011, knew or should have known about about cheating on state mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

An AJC analysis first detected statistically improbable increases in test scores at one Atlanta school in 2008. The following year, the AJC published another analysis that found suspicious score changes on the 2009 CRCT at a dozen Atlanta schools. The newspaper’s reporting ultimately led to the state investigation Atlanta’s huge gains on the state-mandated in 2009.

The investigators’ report depicted a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up improprieties. Strongly contradicting denials of cheating and other irregularities by Hall and other top district executives, the report described organized wrongdoing that robbed tens of thousands of children —- many of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds and struggled in school —- of an honest appraisal of their abilities.

Hall’s attorneys — former U.S. Attorney Richard Deane and David J. Bailey — Hall denies “any involvement in cheating on the CRCT exam or any other wrongdoing.

“We note that as far as has been disclosed, despite the thousands of interviews that were reportedly done by the governor’s investigators and others, not a single person reported that Dr. Hall participated in or directed them to cheat on the CRCT,” the lawyers said in a statement. “We intend to vigorously defend this case and we are confident that when all the evidence is in, she will be fully vindicated.”

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