Convicted Educators Face Re-Sentencing

BY DAVID STOKES

In what lasted more than two hours in Day Two of applying punishment for offenses committed against the children of Atlanta, the majority of educators found guilty of RICO/racketeering statutes, along with other charges, were either sentenced to prison or given probation and home confinement last week in what is now known as the longest court case in Georgia history, as well as the nation's largest test cheating scandal involving elementary and middle school children.

Upon Atlanta-Fulton Co. Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter applying sentences to the educators-defendants—the harshest being 20 years, to serve seven, in some instances—he emphatically decried several times in his sixth floor courtroom, "this is not a victimless crime," while admonishing defendants of "not accepting responsibility" of the crimes for which they were found guilty of, after six days of jury deliberation, on April 1. Eight of the ten defendants were given prison time, with the most being applied to executive level defendants of the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) who served as cabinet members to the recently retired Superintendent Beverly Hall, Ph.D. (However, as Dr. Hall was being treated for breast cancer since last summer and appeared only twice for court hearings, she died of complications from cancer last month, on March 2.) During sentencing proceedings that ultimately enveloped two days, Judge Baxter and defense attorneys, on occasion, debated back-and-forth on statements made previously by the 40-year jurist-judge, thereby, instigating high drama, in which discussions of first offender status and other legal issues took place. At one point, on April 13, Baxter warned a defense attorney, "I will put you in jail if you continue to yell at me." Attorneys were visibly agitated with Baxter as they came to believe he was being an "Indian giver" and going back on his word of first offender status, in particular, along with applying bond for defendants, as well as other imprimaturs and conditions that could be reserved for their respective defendants. While punishment recommendations for their clients were entered, Judge Baxter rendered the harshest sentences to Hall's executive team—Sharon Davis-Williams, Tamara Cotman and Michael Pitts—who each received sentences of 20 years, to serve seven behind bars, with the remainder on probation after exiting jail, along with fines for each of $5,000 and 2,000 hours of community service. Other educators and administrators received lighter sentences: former principal Dana Evans received five years in prison, to serve one year; teacher Angela Williamson, received five years, to serve years, as the judge exclaimed, "the evidence was overwhelming that (she) cheated"; teacher Tabeeka Jordan received five years, to serve two years, along with a $5,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service, with Judge Baxter indicating that he "will consider" applying her first offender status; assistant principal Diane Buckner-Webb received five years, with one year to serve, as well as a $2,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service; and teacher Theresia Copeland received five years, with one year to serve, and will receive first offender status, along with a $1,000 fine and 1,000 hours of community service to complete. (First offender status towards a defendant allows the convicted to have an expunged record upon completion of all mandates of punishment.) Furthermore, defendants Don Bullock and Pamela Cleveland, at the 13th hour at the county jail and in the courthouse, opted to accept District Attorney Paul Howard's plea deal of five years probation, along with offering an apology in court to the students and the community of wrongdoing. Both Bullock and Cleveland rendered their apologies in court. With Ms. Cleveland, however, she is to also receive one year of home confinement during her probation period, and both were applied a $1,000 fine plus 1,000 hours of community service to perform.

Upon the convicted being sentenced last week in a packed courtroom of spectators, litigators and others, they will now have 30 days to appeal their convictions, by May 15, according to Judge Baxter, except for Bullock, Cleveland and the others who accepted plea bargains last year upon indictment, and were allowed to go home, on April 14, via appeals bond applications grant by Baxter. Upon being found guilty of the RICO felonies two weeks ago, on April 1, the defendants were immediately handcuffed and transported to the Fulton Co. jail on Rice St., NW, as convicted felons. Additionally, in what was a "very last attempt for (educators) to not go to jail," as D.A. Paul Howard said while speaking exclusively to The Inquirer, on Monday morning, April 13, prior to sentencing, a "final attempt" for plea deals was offered on Sunday, April 12, at the county jail, but defendants chose not to accept his offering. (However, the next day, on Monday the 13th, Bullock and Ms. Cleveland accepted the plea bargain of probation, the fine and community service.) Also D.A. Howard indicated during the exclusive telephone interview that the plea bargaining included defendants forfeiting their right to appeal their conviction, as well as the formal apologies. "They have had numerous chances to accept responsibility for their actions, yet, I wanted to give them one last opportunity to accept responsibility of their actions that basically harmed the children," Howard exclaimed to this reporter, the morning of April 13. On several occasions during the sentencing phase, Judge Baxter emphasized, "we wouldn't be here now if (the educators and administrators) had just accepted their responsibility." Late last year, other APS educators-defendants indicted for RICO, false statements and other felonies accepted D.A. Howard's plea deal and avoided further prosecution; however, during the two day sentencing procedure last week, emotions were in full swing between the judge and defense attorneys as, attorneys felt, prior assertions from Baxter were being taken off the table for respective clients. High drama permeated the courtroom proceedings as well with community leaders speaking out for leniency or no jail time for the educators. "I respectfully request that your punishment will be tempered with mercy," stated Thelma Wyatt Cummings-Moore, a retired Fulton Co. Superior Court judge who served until 2008. "I have admired and respected your thoughtful decisions over the years as a colleague, and now, I humbly request your compassion with punishing these defendants. Please remember that they can still contribute positively to society and towards educating the children." Another eloquent community member speaking for defendants' lenient punishment, along with various ministers and family and friends of the defendants, was former U.N. Ambassador to the U.S./former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, often invoking the wisdom of, and quotes by, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as he indicating how retired Superintendent Hall assisted with improving APS, overall, during her tenure. "The community at-large is better today because of her efforts to challenge what was broken in the school system ... and her seeking ways to improve the manner in which the children are taught." The sentencing is the culmination in which, the past three weeks, community leaders sought for lenient punishment for the educators found guilty earlier this month. One of those leaders included Bernice A. King, youngest offspring of Dr. King. "I believe that we have to find the balance between retribution and rehabilitation, which will create a more just and humane society. It would not lift humanity," she emphasized in a statement, "to have 11 educators subjected to an 'eye for an eye' sentence. Instead it is my hope that their sentences allow for (them) to be of benefit to society, while, at the same time, reconciling themselves with their offenses and enhancing their character."


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Delta Community / KISS 104 HBCU Scholarship Award

Delta Community Credit Union is proud to present a scholarship award, in conjunction with radio station KISS 104, to 18-year old Adam Turner, who will begin his freshman year at Morehouse College this fall.

Turner, was awarded a scholarship of $1,875 at Delta Community's Vinings branch.?? This is the first of four Delta Community-Kiss 104 HBCU Scholarship Award presentations planned for 2015. Delta Community will be awarding a total of $7,500 to four scholarship winners in recognition of the Credit Union's 75th anniversary, #DeltaCommunity75.


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Retired City Director Succumbs

BY DAVID STOKES

Life reflections by family, friends and admirers were rendered weekend before last, on April 18, following the unfortunate demise of W. Cedric Maddox, an Atlanta Bureau of Sanitary Services director who retired from office in 2002—after nearly three decades of an illustrious career of public service which began within the historic, trailblazing administration of Mayor Maynard H. Jackson in 1974.

Willie Cedric Maddox was born in Atlanta, Ga., on March 3, 1937, being the first of two children of the late Deacon Willie J. Maddox and Mrs. Thelma L. Maddox where they resided in the Vine City community of the city. As an offspring of Christian parents, Cedric was baptized and raised in the West Hunter Street Baptist Church, and as a child and youth, was involved in all aspects of the southwest Atlanta church, including the Boy Scouts. Bro. Maddox was educated in the Atlanta Public Schools system and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. He continued matriculation at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) and graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Commercial Industries, as well as performed post-graduate studies in General Psychology. Maddox served in the U.S. Army from 1960-62, and upon completion of duty, received managerial training to operate, manage and ultimately own the Dozier-Maddox Shell Service Station. Shortly thereafter, he was hired as a Quality Control Engineer for the Ford Motor Co., in 1965-74. It was in mid 1974 that Mayor Jackson—a Maddox childhood friend—encouraged him to begin his career in Atlanta city government, and during that time, for 28 years, Maddox served as the director of the Bureau of General Services, director of Motor Transport Services and director of the Bureau of Sanitary Services which he managed from 1979-2002. Under Maddox's supervision, Atlanta was known as one of the cleanest cities in America. While receiving numerous accolades, Maddox also served as a member or was appointed as chairman of various civic and community organizations, including serving as president of the Georgia chapter of the American Public Works Association, president of the Georgia chapter of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, and recipient of the City of Atlanta's Executive of the Year award. Upon retiring from the City of Atlanta, he started his own Environmental Consulting Company, in 2002-09, which managed major contracts with Dream Sanitation, Fulton County and the cities of Atlanta, Decatur, Roswell and Clarkston, Ga. As an adult at West Hunter Street Baptist Church, Maddox was appointed as a Deacon, served as a Sunday School teacher and served as a member of the renowned Abernathy-Butts Gospel Choir, the Sanctuary Choir, the Chancel Choir and the Men's Chorus. He was often featured as a soloist—complimented by his melodious range as tenor—and was a member of the Atlanta Super Choir. Maddox continued his membership in West Hunter until he departed this life on Saturday, April 11. Among family and business associates, Maddox was known as a dedicated public servant, exceptional manager, outspoken leader and dependable friend. His dedication of many years of service speaks for itself through numerous civic and community organizations he was affiliated with, including the City of Atlanta's March of Dimes, the Municipal Waster Management Association and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce's Waster Management Task Force. Maddox was also a champion for his community as a member and leader of the Lynfield-Pamlico Neighborhood Association in southwest Atlanta. Additionally, Maddox was an exemplary cook who loved entertaining his family and friends. Furthermore, he was a BIG Atlanta Falcons fan, and enjoyed tailgating with the "Fun Bunch". Although Cedric departed this life unexpectedly, he touched the lives of many people which can be attested by many colleagues, loved ones and a host of loyal friends and past employees.

Attending the nearly three hour long homegoing service at West Hunter Street Baptist were city and county leaders who remembered W. Cedric Maddox fondly, including the "dean of the city Council," Councilman C.T. Martin, and Fulton Co. Commissioners Emma I. Darnell and Rob Pitts, respectively, among others. "(Maddox) was among us original members of the (Maynard) Jackson administration who ushered in a new city government for ALL the people," exclaimed Ms. Darnell, Jackson's initial director of Administrative Services, from 1974-78. "(Maddox) cared in serving the people just as much as he dared to do his work well." Although Cedric has now departed this Earth, his family and friends know that God has a greater plan for the "loving, dedicated, family-oriented and faith-driven person" Maddox was, according to his family. Maddox leaves to cherish his memories a loving and devoted wife, Wanda; a son, Julian; a sister, Delecia; numerous nieces and nephews, cousins and dear friends.

The Rev. Toussaint Hill, West Hunter's senior pastor, officiated 'A Celebration of the Life of Willie Cedric Maddox,' while the Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr. served as eulogist. Interment occurred at Greenwood Cemetery, at 1173 Cascade Road, SW Atlanta.