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Mistaken ‘reply all’ email leads to suspension without pay for prosecutor

Posted Jul 14, 2014 9:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A prosecutor in the Atlanta schools cheating scandal has been suspended for three days without pay after she mistakenly hit “reply all” when commenting about a defendant’s Stage IV breast cancer.

Assistant District Attorney Lori Canfield of Fulton County mistakenly sent a two-word comment to dozens of lawyers and others associated with the schools case, report the Daily Report, WABE and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Canfield commented after receiving notification that former schools superintendent Beverly Hall was too ill to attend trial or assist her lawyers, according to a doctor’s opinion. Canfield’s response: “Surprise, surprise.”

In a written statement, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the three-day suspension and said he was removing the lawyer from the trial team in the schools case. The statement did not mention Canfield by name, but the Daily Report, WABE and the Journal-Constitution all say Howard was referring to Canfield.

Howard said the assistant DA was frustrated with the consequences of the potential delay when she mistakenly sent the email to all parties associated with the schools indictment. “She immediately recognized that this comment might be perceived by others as insensitive and attempted to recall her words,” Howard wrote.

“This attorney herself is a cancer survivor currently in remission and has lost several family members to this insidious disease. She would never demean the deadly effects of cancer. She is deeply apologetic for her actions and is sorry if Beverly Hall or others may in any way be offended.”

Hall is accused in an alleged conspiracy to correct students' scores on standardized tests. Twenty-one defendants have pleaded guilty, while cases are pending against Hall and 12 others, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a separate story. Prosecutors allege the defendants knew about or ignored cheating. Judge Judge Jerry Baxter ruled on Friday that the trial will go on as scheduled on Aug. 11 for the other defendants, and Hall can be tried separately if her health improves, the story says.

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