APS trial: Prosecutors seek to revoke principal’s probation

Fulton County prosecutors on Friday sought to revoke the probation of a former Gideons Elementary School principal for his testimony during the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating trial.

Armstead Salters perjured himself, was misleading and and declined to truly accept responsibility for what he’d done while testifying on Tuesday, the state’s petition said.

When contacted Friday at his home, Salters, 74, said, “Pray for me. I had to do what I thought was right.”

He referred questions to his attorney, John L. Kimmey, who could not be reached for comment.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter said this week he will not take up the matter until the end of the months-long racketeering trial against 12 former educators and administrators. Testimony continues Monday.

Defense attorneys asked the judge not to take any action now against Salters because they were concerned any new punishment could have a chilling effect on future witnesses.

Prosecutors said they seek not only to revoke Salters’ probation, but also to void his status as a first offender. As a first offender, Salters would not have had a conviction on his record if he had successfully completed the terms of his probation. One of those terms, the agreement said, was to cooperate and provide truthful testimony as a prosecution witness.

Prosecutors also said they want to obtain a warrant for Salters’ arrest for when he returns to the court to answer these new charges, although it is unclear when that would happen.

Salters, once the longtime principal of Gideons Elementary School, was the first witness called by the prosecution who had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of false statements and writings. But in his testimony Tuesday, Salters all but disowned the plea agreement he entered into with prosecutors last December. He freely acknowledged what he was doing could land him in prison.

While testifying, Salters acknowledged that he had initialed or signed every page of the plea agreement. But he said he was recovering from cataract surgery and had trouble reading. Moreover, he said, the pressure of being indicted on a racketeering charge was causing his health to deteriorate.

“I had been through the mill that day and I just wanted to get out of here,” he testified. ” … I made a mistake in signing off on some of those things.”

When he actually read the plea agreement later, he said he thought, “I must be crazy.”

Salters was sentenced on Dec. 19 to two years on probation and ordered to return $2,000 in bonus money and perform 1,000 hours of community service.

When Salters finished testifying Tuesday, Baxter stopped the clock running on Salters’ probation.

In their motion, prosecutors Fani Willis and Clint Rucker cited nine instances during Salters’ testimony in which he allegedly violated terms of his probation.

These included: denying that pressure from former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall and her administration led to his participation in test-cheating; saying he became involved in cheating in 2006, when his plea agreement said 2005; and denying talking to teachers about getting the tests and answer sheets after students turned them in, the motion said.

Also, when asked if he told former testing coordinator Sheridan Rogers to let teachers keep answer sheets overnight, Salters testified, “I took the blame for it, so yes,” the motion noted.

“Such statement was misleading in that one could assume he accepted responsibility for something he did not do, contrary to his plea agreement,” prosecutors said.