Defendant Tamara Cotman, a former regional director, was acquitted last year on a charge of influencing a witness.
Photo: KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Photo: KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Defendant in Atlanta cheating trial carried out on stretcher

A defendant in the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating trial was carried from the courtroom on a stretcher Thursday morning.

A Fulton County deputy called for paramedics at 10:20 a.m. to attend to the defendant, Tamara Cotman, temporarily halting jury selection.

Cotman was hunched over in her chair for several minutes. She complained that one of her knees was hurting and that she felt hot. A prospective juror who is a nurse treated Cotman until the paramedics arrived at 10:45 a.m. Cotman, 44, was alert as she was carried from the courtroom.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter said Cotman is a diabetic and recently hurt one of her knees, which may have contributed to her feeling ill.

Cotman, a former regional director, was acquitted in a separate trial last year on a charge of influencing a witness.

She was tried in that case first because her attorney, Benjamin Davis, requested a speedy trial.

Davis said at the time that Cotman wasn’t on trial for cheating, even though prosecutors made it seem that way. He said Cotman never witnessed cheating or any other criminal behavior, and she didn’t attempt to stonewall investigators looking into irregularities on the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

She was accused of intimidating and threatening Scott Elementary School interim Principal Jimmye Hawkins, who said she feared retaliation for cooperating with the state investigation into test cheating.

Hawkins testified that Cotman opened a Nov. 17, 2010, principals meeting with a lengthy rant against the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into test cheating. Cotman then handed out memos labeled “go to hell” to the 10 principals, directing them to address them to the GBI or state investigators, Hawkins testified.

But other principals in the meeting told jurors during the trial that the memos were intended as a stress relief exercise, and Cotman didn’t mention the GBI.

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