mostlycloudy
Saturday August 29th, 2015 5:27AM

First trial opens in Atlanta school cheating case

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- The first trial is under way for an educator charged in a massive cheating scandal in Atlanta's public school system, a case that could be a preview of a bigger trial set for next year.

Testimony began Friday in the trial of former area director Tamara Cotman, the first of about three dozen former administrators and teachers to stand trial.

Witnesses could include former Gov. Sonny Perdue, who ordered a state investigation of the claims.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ( http://bit.ly/1c3SmcV ) reported prosecutors will try to outline how cheating happened on such a broad scale, although Cotman has pleaded not guilty to influencing a witness.

The 2011 state investigation concluded cheating occurred at 44 schools so educators could avoid losing their jobs and earn bonuses.

Opening testimony showed Cotman rebuffed a teacher who reported that she had been given standardized test answer sheets, and the teacher was out of a job soon afterward.

Mary Gordon, who taught at Turner Middle School, said Cotman told her "they just do that at Turner" when asked about the answer sheets. Then Gordon's principal put her on an improvement plan, and Gordon quit out of frustration, ending a 29-year career.

Gordon testified for the prosecution to back up charges alleging Cotman harassed and demoted a principal who she believed reported to the school board that Cotman gave instructions for school employees to tell cheating scandal investigators to "go to hell."

Cotman is on trial in Fulton County Superior Court for trying to influence a witness, but she also is one of 35 former administrators and teachers, including Cotman's former boss, Superintendent Beverly Hall, who later will be tried on criminal charges for allegedly changing students' answers on standardized tests.

"We're going to prove to you that this defendant knew there was cheating going on and she did nothing about it," Clint Rucker, an assistant district attorney, said in his opening statement. "Those who told the truth got punished."

Cotman's attorney, Benjamin Davis, did not make an opening statement, reserving his time to do so until after the prosecution finishes presenting its case.

"I believe in my client's innocence," Davis said afterward. "We believe so far that the state hasn't proved anything, so I didn't see a need to give a statement."

Cotman is standing trial before the other defendants because her attorney requested a speedy trial on the single count of influencing a witness.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Dominica prime minister says 20 dead, widespread devastation following Tropical Storm Erika
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — A weakening Tropical Storm Erika drenched Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Friday after leaving a trail of destruction that killed at least 20 people and le...
11:12PM ( 6 hours ago )
Three from metro-Atlanta arrested in Gainesville during drug sting
Hall County Multi Agency Narcotics Squad (MANS) agents report the arrest of three individuals in a drug bust in the 2300 block of Browns Bridge Road that took place on Tuesday.
5:59PM ( 11 hours ago )
Rollover wreck at EHHC injures three students
Three East Hall High School students were injured this afternoon on Old Cornelia Highway in a rollover crash in front of the school.
4:58PM ( 12 hours ago )
Flowery Brnach subdivision adding 115 new homes
Plans are underway for more than 100 new homes in two new sections of a Flowery Branch subdivision.
4:30PM ( 12 hours ago )
Hall County sees second positive rabies alert of the week, fifth of the year
Hall County has its second positive rabies alert of the week, and fifth of the year.
3:52PM ( 13 hours ago )