APS cheating defendants want judge removed from case - CBS46 News

APS cheating defendants want judge removed from case

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Some of the remaining defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating case have asked a judge to remove Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter from the case.

The attorney for Tamara Cotman, a former APS regional director, filed the first request for a recusal. Other defendants, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, have joined the request.

A jury acquitted Cotman on charges she influenced a witness. Her attorney filed for an appeal after Baxter refused to dismiss the other charge Cotman is facing, along with Hall and the other educators.

Cotman's attorneys allege Baxter improperly made phone calls to the Court of Appeals, urging it to take quick action on her appeal. The defense argued Baxter thinks Cotman's appeal is "frivolous" and is trying to influence the appeals court to deny her case.

"The canon of judicial ethics says the judge can't do what the judge did," said George Lawson, an attorney for another educator who wants Baxter removed. "The rules said you can't. The rules say on 285 the speed limit is what? 70? You go 85, you've broken the rule. There are consequences."

Prosecutors argue Baxter called the appeals court so he could keep the cheating trial moving forward.

"What Judge Baxter has been doing is his job, the best way he knows how in one of the most difficult and complicated cases that's ever come into this court," said Prosecutor John Floyd.

Judge Shawn LaGrua said she would make a decision on Baxter's future in the case at a later date.

Twenty-one educators have already pleaded guilty in the cheating scandal and accepted plea deals. The trial for the remaining 13 is currently scheduled to begin in August.

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