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First Defendant in Atlanta Cheating Scandal Not Guilty, Jury Finds

A former Atlanta public schools administrator charged with influencing a witness in the district's massive cheating scandal was found not guilty this afternoon by a Fulton County, Ga., jury.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Tamara Cotman, a former area director who oversaw more than 20 schools, was acquitted of charges that she had instructed principals to tell investigators looking into the cheating allegations to "go to hell."

Cotman's three-week-long trial is the first to come after state prosecutors indicted 35 former Atlanta teachers and administrators, including Beverly Hall, the former superintendent.

Ms. Hall, a one-time national superintendent of the year, and her former school system colleagues were named in a 65-count indictment that alleges the educators engaged in a broad conspiracy to make student performance in the Atlanta district look better than it actually was.

The indictment, which includes racketeering charges, alleges that Ms. Hall and the others cheated on state exams, hid the cheating, and retaliated against whistle-blowers who tried to expose it. Many of those who were charged, including Ms. Hall, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in performance bonuses that were based on the fraudulent scores.

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