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SENTENCED | Two APS defendants take plea, others face 7 years in prison | News

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SENTENCED | Two APS defendants take plea, others face 7 years in prison
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ATLANTA -- In court Monday, Judge Jerry Baxter urged educators convicted of racketeering charges in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial to take a deal.

Few took that advice.

Two convicted APS educators took plea deals in court Tuesday. The others were sentenced to a mix of prison time, probation, fines, and community service.

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One of the educators, Donald Bullock, took the state's plea deal of five years probation, six months of weekends served in jail, a $5,000 fine, and 1500 hours of community service. The plea included first offender status. It also required Bullock accept responsibility and waive any future appeals. Bullock read a statement apologizing to APS students and the court.

Hours later, Pamela Cleveland became the second defendant to accept the state's plea deal. She was sentenced to one year of home confinement, including a curfew of 7 p.m.-7 a.m., a $1000 fine, and 1000 hours of community service.

By late Tuesday evening, all of the defendants had been released from jail, either as part of their sentence or on appeal bonds.

PHOTOS | The defendants, the decisions and the sentences

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The rest of the defendants were sentenced by Judge Baxter.

He sentenced Tamara Cotman, Sharon Davis Williams, and Michael Pitts to 20 years (7 to serve), $25,000 fine, 2000 hours of community service, and no first offender status.

Angela Williamson was sentenced to five years (one to serve), 1,500 hours of community service, and a $5,000 fine.

Dana Evans received a sentence of five years (one to serve) and 1,000 hours of community service.

Tabeeka Jordan received a sentenced of five years (two to serve), 1,500 hours of community service, and a $5,000 fine.

Diane Buckner-Webb was sentenced to five years (one to serve), 1,000 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine.

Theresia Copeland was sentenced was sentenced to five years (one to serve), 1000 hours of community, and a $1,000 fine.

Those eight educators were released from jail on bond Tuesday night. Cleveland and Bullock were released based on their sentence.

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One convicted educator, Shani Robinson, wasn't part of the sentencing hearing. The former Dunbar Elementary first grade teacher was convicted of racketeering and making false statements. She gave birth on Saturday and had her sentencing delayed until August.

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WATCH | 11Alive's Vinnie Politan discusses the sentencing with legal analysts Phil Holloway and Darryl Cohen

Monday recap | Sentence hearing begins

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The sentencing hearing for 10 of 11 convicted Atlanta Public Schools educators began on Monday. The educators have been in jail since they were convicted on April 1.

As reported late Sunday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard offered APS educators last-minute deals that would keep them out of prison.

Dana Evans and Donald Bullock were the only two defendants to speak.

A variety of character witnesses testified on behalf of the other convicted educators, including family members, friends and even former Atlanta Mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young.

After the witnesses spoke, Judge Jerry Baxter urged the defendants to accept responsibility for their actions and consider the plea deal offered by Howard.

According to Fulton County senior assistant district attorney Clint Rucker, the deals offered were as follows:

Administrators Michael Pitts, Sharon Davis-Williams and Tamara Cotman were offered a five-year sentence that would include 1 year of jail time to be served weekends only, with the rest being probation. They would also pay a $10,000 fine.

Donald Bullock, Dana Evans and Tabeeka Jordan's deal included 6 months in jail to be served on weekends and a $5,000 fine.

The deal offered to Diane Buckner-Webb, Pamela Cleveland, Theresia Copeland and Angela Williamson included 1-year home confinement and a $1,000 fine.

If they were to accept the deals, defendants had to agree not to appeal their sentences.

During Monday's hearing, Baxter seemed to indicate that those who did not accept the plea deal would be facing jail time. Just before breaking for a late lunch, tensions heightened when defense attorneys told the judge they wanted a real negotiation, not a directive from D.A. Howard. The District Attorney stood up and said he did not plan to negotiate with every single defendant. The suggestion to work out a plea deal over the lunch break seemed to deteriorate into chaotic frustration until judge Baxter said, "We'll just have a sentencing then!"

At 3 p.m., Judge Baxter said court would recess for the day as Howard met with defense attorneys. Sentencing is scheduled to resume Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Outside the courtroom, protesters held a rally in support of the defendants. Family, friends and supporters of the convicted educators argued the defendants could do more good outside of jail than inside.

"They should be required to tutor in some of Atlanta's most depressed schools," said the Rev. Markel Hutchins. "They should be required to volunteer and do community service in a way that uplifts the children in Fulton County and in Atlanta Public Schools and not harm them."

An impromptu prayer vigil was held after Judge Baxter adjourned for the day.

WATCH | Atlanta Alive's Vinnie Politan discusses the day's events with legal analyst Philip Holloway

APS TRIAL | A Timeline

The scandal dates back to 2008. That year, a dozen schools posted high gains over the previous year's standardized tests. In 2009, a state investigation found "overwhelming" evidence of cheating at several schools. Then-Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall denied the accusations.

In 2010, a bipartisan blue ribbon commission found "severe to moderate levels of cheating at dozens of Atlanta elementary schools.

In July 2011, an investigation by the governor's officer uncovered widespread problems.

In March 2013, criminal indictments were issued for 35 APS employees, including Hall.

In addition to the 12 defendants who stood trial, 21 more took plea deals and received probation, paid fines, performed community service and will eventually have their records wiped clean. Hall passed away Mar. 2 after battling breast cancer.

One defendant -- Dobbs Elementary School teacher Dessa Curb -- was acquitted of all charges against her.

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