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As Cheating Trial Nears, Legal Fund Collects Support for Beverly Hall's Defense

In just a little more than a month, retired Atlanta schools Superintendent Beverly Hall is due to stand trial on charges that she conspired to make student performance in the district look better than it actually was by pressuring principals and teachers to cheat on state exams, hiding the cheating, and retaliating against whistleblowers who tried to expose it.

In the year since she was indicted by a grand jury, Hall has maintained her innocence and is one of 13 former Atlanta educators who will stand trial starting May 5. Most of the 34 educators who were indicted have since pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their cooperation against Hall and others who have pleaded innocent.

Millicent Few, a former human resources director for the school district who was a member of Hall's executive cabinet, was the most recent defendant to negotiate a plea deal. Prosecutors have said that she is their most valuable witness in their case against the former superintendent.

Hall has had a top defense team working on her case since the indictment came down a year ago. But that, of course, costs major dough.

Which is why some of Hall's personal friends and professional colleagues set up a legal defense fund on her behalf. It appears that the fund had been aiming to raise $25,000 for Hall by the end of February. I've got a query out to the fund's trustees to find out if they met that goal and who the supporters have been.

On the fund's website, the trustees write: "Those of us who have developed professional and personal relationships with Beverly over the years find it incomprehensible that she is defending herself against the charges. She must rely upon her personal resources and your generosity to help pay the staggering costs that will be associated with the trial."

The site also has a short bio of Hall that highlights her achievements as the schools chief in Atlanta and provides some explanation of what supporters' donations will help pay for, including hiring independent expert witnesses to testify on her behalf.

The three trustees of the fund are listed as Carolyn M. Getridge, who was the superintendent of the Oakland, Calif., schools during the 1990s; Andrew R. Glickman, a personal friend who is a senior consultant to a New York City accounting firm, and Arnett W. Mumford, III, a lawyer in Atlanta.

Last fall, one of Hall's lawyers issued a statement to local Atlanta media that the former schools chief has breast cancer.


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