ATLANTA-- With an indictment coming down after nearly two years of investigation into the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, many are expecting one or more trials with serious jail time to follow. But it may not turn out that way. Former DeKalb District Attorney J. Tom Morgan said the case will be tough to prosecute because it's unprecedented. Racketeering charges have never been applied to a cheating case, because they're usually saved for mobsters.
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"No one has been murdered here, no child has been molested no bank has been held up," Morgan said. "We really don't have any comparisons on a case like this."
He said many of the minor players in the case can be expected to plead guilty and receive probation. They could possibly cooperate with prosecutors, which would allow them to tighten their focus on major figures like former superintendent Beverly Hall. But Morgan said even that case will be tough to prove.
"They're going to have to show that she aided and abetted in the erasures so that she could get a bonus," Morgan said.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said that evidence is there, and they'll prove it if the case goes to trial. Hall's attorney has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
But even if a tough case is proved, and Hall is eventually found guilty, Morgan said she can't be expected to serve the decades in prison that usually accompany a racketeering conviction. With no prior record and no violent crimes committed, her sentence would probably be lighter than most racketeering cases.
"For a lot of us legal minds, we're going to watch some good lawyers try to figure this out," Morgan said.