Fulton County Georgia Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter sentenced 10 of the 11 convicted Atlanta Public Schools educators to serve time in prison and home confinement during an emotionally intense sentencing hearing this morning.
Yesterday, the Judge Baxter gave the educators 2 options: accept the plea deals or go straight to prison.
The judge was furious that some of the educators declined to accept district attorney Paul Howard's plea deals by his 10 a.m. deadline this morning.
The first educator to cop to a plea deal was Donald Bullock, who was sentenced to 5 years probation and 6 months in prison, to serve on weekends. The judge allowed Bullock to begin serving his weekend sentences after his son graduates from college in May.
But soon after Bullock was sentenced, an attorney stood up in the back of the room and reminded Judge Baxter that he promised to grant appeal bonds the other defendants so they could remain out on bond while they appealed their sentences.
Judge Baxter denied making any such promises. But the attorney stood firm, reminding the judge that he is on record making those promises.
A heated exchange followed as other attorneys stood up and raised their voices in defiance to the judge. At one point the angry judge threatened to throw an attorney in jail for contempt of court. Another attorney demanded that the biased judge recuse himself from the proceedings.
The court returned to order when the judge finally signaled defeat and granted the appeals bonds.
This was significant because it meant 8 of the 10 defendants would not have to serve another night in jail until their appeals are heard -- which could be years from now.
The vindictive Judge Baxter immediately retaliated by sentencing former SRT exec. dir. Sharon Davis-Williams to 20 years in prison, to serve 7 years. "Things have changed now... there is no deal," Judge Baxter growled, as a woman sobbed loudly in court.
Next up were former asst. principal Tamara Cotman and former SRT exec. dir. Michael Pitts, who each received the same sentence as Davis-Williams -- 20 years in prison, to serve 7 years. They were also ordered to serve 2000 hours of community service and pay $25,000 in fines.
The judge was lenient with former Dobbs Elementary Principal Dana Evans, who once counseled the judge's own son. She received 5 years probation with 1 year of home confinement between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
4 other former APS educators received sentences ranging from 1-3 years in prison. Only 2 former educators accepted plea deals -- which didn't sit well with the ornery judge who just wanted to get back to his golf game.
The 10 convicted educators were led to the bus for the trip back to jail to be processed out so they can return home to their families. They spent the last 10 days in jail, but if there is any justice left in Georgia, they will not serve a day more.
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