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APS Trial: 11 of 12 convicted of racketeering

One defendant was completely acquitted; the remaining 11 were convicted of racketeering.
Judge Jerry Baxter read the verdict against the 12 defendants shortly after 2:00 pm Wednesday.

ATLANTA -- After listening to more than six months of testimony, the jury in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial convicted 11 of the 12 defendants of racketeering.

Jurors deliberated for nearly eight days before reaching their collective decision.

"This has been a long, long, long journey," Judge Jerry Baxter said shortly before the verdict was read. "I know everyone here probably has emotions they can't describe. I know I do. But I want to tell you -- I've been down here 42 years ... and I've never seen a jury that was more diligent."

"Whatever your verdict is, I'll defend it until I die," Baxter added.

One defendant -- Dobbs Elementary School teacher Dessa Curb -- was acquitted of all charges against her. The remaining 11 defendants were found guilty of at least one count:

Diane Buckner-Webb (Dunbar Elementary School teacher)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Guilty of two counts of false statements

Donald Bullock (Usher Collier Heights elementary testing)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Guilty of two counts of false statements
* Guilty of one count of false swearing
* Acquitted of one count of false statements

Pamela Cleveland (Dunbar ES teacher)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Guilty of two counts of false statements

Theresia Copeland (Benteen ES testing coordinator)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Guilty of false statements
* Acquitted of theft by taking

Tamara Cotman (School Reform Team Executive Director)
* Guilty of racketeering

Dessa Curb (Dobbs ES teacher)
* Acquitted of racketeering
* Acquitted of two counts of false statements

Dana Evans (Dobbs ES Principal)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Guilty of false statements
* Acquitted of three counts of false statements

Tabeeka Jordan (Deerwood Academy, Asst. Principal)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Acquitted of theft by taking
* Acquitted of false statements

Michael Pitts (School Reform Team executive director)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Guilty of influencing witnesses

Shani Robinson (Dunbar ES teacher)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Guilty of false statements

Sharon Davis Williams (School Reform Team Exec. Director)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Acquitted of two counts of false statements

Angela Williamson (Dobbs ES teacher)
* Guilty of racketeering
* Guilty of two counts of false statements
* Guilty of two counts of false swearing

Judge Baxter ordered the convicted defendants to be taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read.

"The compelling reason is that they have just been convicted," Baxter said. "They have been convicted and that's enough for me. I have sat here for six months and listened to this whole thing."

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard called the case the largest and most complicated he's ever tried. Howard thanked the parents and children who came forward when the cheating allegations came forward, and said he hoped that the case will result in change for the better for the public education system.

Attorneys for the convicted defendants said they were appalled by the jury's decision and pledged to file for appeal bonds to get their clients out of jail.

Shawna Hayes-Taveres was one of the first parents to speak out about the cheating scandal and the last to testify in the trial. She said she was pleased to hear news of the convictions. She had three children she said were affected by the cheating, one a special needs student at one of the cheating schools.

"In my wildest dreams, nightmare or thoughts I never thought that we would be able to convict educators of racketeering," Hayes Taveres said. "I really did not believe that, even though I was hopeful that we were fighting for the children of Atlanta public schools and I said symbolically this was enough. " Click here for more.

The defendants will remain at Fulton County Jail until their sentencing.

After the verdicts were read, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed issued the following statement:

The APS cheating scandal marked one of the darkest periods in the life of our city. I am hopeful that with the jury's verdict today, we can finally close this chapter and move forward with the education and development of our young people. I want to thank Judge Baxter and the Court for their service.

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.

Dr. Beverly Hall, the former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent who was mentioned repeatedly in testimony, passed away Mar. 2 after battling breast cancer. Her husband was in the courtroom when the verdicts were read.

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 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.

PHOTOS | Educators indicted in APS cheating scandal