Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal defendants ask judge for mercy

The longest and most expensive criminal trial is Georgia history still has not concluded. Almost a decade later, six defendants in the Atlanta Public School cheating scandal are still appealing their 2015 convictions.

Their public defender still wants off the case which could extend the proceedings even longer.

Retired Judge Jerry Baxter will have a hearing for the six defendants Thursday, but advocates for the educators held a news conference Wednesday.

"The Atlanta Public School cheating scandal must come to an end," exclaimed Sarah Abdelaziz of the Abolitionist Teaching Network.

The ATN along with the NAACP, The Southern Center for Human Rights and other advocates spoke put to retired Judge Jerry Baxter.

They want the judge to extend mercy and grace to the remaining six educators who have not started their punishment after being convicted in the nation's largest cheating scandal in 2015.

One of the critics is the state President of the NAACP who represented some of the defendants

"It was the most unnecessary trial that I have ever seen. 8 months of witnesses, hundreds of documents, thousands of court hours, where no child was ever remediated was just a waste of time," NAACP State President Gerald Griggs exclaimed.

Prosecutors successfully argued the educators participated in a racketeering scheme to change test scores for financial gain. Dozens of teachers took plea deals and worked community service, two of the educators, Tamara Cotman and Angela Williamson, already served time in prison and have been released.

A public defender now represents the remaining six. Lawyer Stephen Scarborough has told Judge Baxter it is a conflict of interest to represent all six defendants. Scarborough has now asked off the case.

These advocates say the educators have suffered enough.

Educators have served their time they have done community service, some have served time behind prison bars, many most educators lost their licenses (and most of them did not recover them, although there are maybe a couple of anomalies) families have suffered family structure has declined, people's images in the community are not what they used to be," former educator turned consultant Dr. Marquis Blades affirmed.

These advocates would like to see the judge dismiss the cases with no prison time.

"We, as Georgia residents, are calling upon Judge Jerry Baxter to take the opportunity of tomorrow's court date to finally close this ugly and draining chapter of our history. No educator should go to prison over a test," remarked Sarah Abdelaziz of the Abolitionist Teaching Network.

"We would ask Judge Baxter to show some grace, to show some mercy and to move our city forward," concluded the Rev. Timothy McDonald of the First Iconium Baptist Church.

Retired Judge Baxter will preside over the Thursday morning hearing.