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Criminal Justice

Million-dollar-plus bonds in cheating scandal? Lawyers say Al Capone paid less, win reductions

Posted Apr 3, 2013 9:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Lawyers reacted with disbelief when grand jurors recommended bonds as high as $7.5 million for educators accused in the Atlanta schools cheating scandal.

The lawyer for former schools superintendent Beverly Hall, J. Tom Morgan, spoke to reporters after negotiating with prosecutors to reduce his client’s $7.5 million bond, CBS News reports. "Seven-point-five million? No! I haven't seen that in cases of genocide," he said.

Hall was released from jail Tuesday evening after the new bond was set at $200,000. She was allowed to use her signature to cover $150,000 and paid 10 percent of the remaining amount, report the New York Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A lawyer for Theresia Copeland, Warren Fortson, also complained about his client’s original $1 million bond, according to the Times. “Al Capone, I understand, didn’t have to post a $1 million bond,” he said. “I don’t think a Cobb County grandmother needs $1 million to secure her.”

Thirty-five educators indicted in the cheating scandal are accused in an alleged conspiracy to raise test scores to obtain bonuses and keep their jobs. Initial bonds ranged from $200,000 to Hall’s $7.5 million, according to the Journal-Constitution. The second highest figure was $4 million for four of the defendants.

By Tuesday evening, all but one of the defendants had obtained bond reductions, the Times says.

Black clergy members and former educators criticized the high bail amounts and said they illustrate a racial divide in the city. The Rev. Timothy McDonald, a spokesman for the group Concerned Black Clergy, told the Times the investigators were white and most of the accused educators were black.

“You can call it racist, you can call it whatever you want, but this is overkill,” he said. “We have seen people with much deeper crimes with much less bond set.”

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