Judge Sentences Final Defendant in Atlanta Schools Test-Cheating Case
The judge in the Atlanta schools test-cheating scandal has sentenced the last defendant in the case to a year in prison.
Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter decided Tuesday that former elementary school teacher Shani Robinson, the mother of an infant child, will spend a year behind bars and another four on probation. Baxter also approved an appeal bond for Robinson so she won't have to begin her sentence, which includes four years on probation, immediately.
In April, jurors in found 11 former educators guilty of conspiring to artificially inflate test scores by changing answers or guiding students to fill in the correct responses on a 2009 state test.
Robinson was convicted of racketeering and false statements and writings, but Baxter delayed her sentencing because she was pregnant. Her son was born just days after her conviction.
Two educators took offers in exchange for admitting to their crimes and were sentenced to probation. The other eight were sentenced to prison terms of one to three years, but remain free on appeal.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Baxter offered Robinson the same deal as her co-defendants: admit guilt and avoid jail time. But Robinson declined.
One defendant in the case, a teacher, was acquitted of all charges.
The case evolved into what experts think is the longest and most complex academic misconduct case in U.S. history.
Because bonuses and raises were awarded to the educators based on the test scores, prosecutors charged the educators with violating the state's RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act by engaging in a massive criminal conspiracy. It's a criminal statute that law enforcement typically uses to prosecute those with ties to organized crime.