Defendants in Atlanta cheating case will likely go on trial as a group

Attorneys for former Atlanta educators accused of cheating pleaded with a judge Tuesday to break the case into smaller pieces rather than hold one giant trial for all 34 defendants that could last six months.

But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter said the case needs to be resolved, and the best way to do that is to put all those indicted for participating in the cheating conspiracy on trial at once.

Baxter encouraged the defendants to talk with prosecutors about making plea deals before an early January deadline to do so. If some of the defendants agree to plead guilty in exchange for reduced sentences, the case would be more manageable by the time it goes to trial April 21.

“It’s just the cold hard truth: This is a once in a lifetime case as far as I’m concerned. You are all in it,” Baxter told the attorneys in court.

Baxter said he wouldn’t make a ruling on whether to break the case up into smaller pieces until after the plea deal deadline, but he said he’s “leaning heavily” toward having one trial.

The 34 defendants are facing criminal charges related to allegations that they conspired to change answers on Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests so their schools could meet academic standards and receive bonus pay.

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