A divide over prosecution in the APS cheating scandal

We may have a serious disagreement building between Attorney General Sam Olens and the two top investigators in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.

Last week, at a gathering of the Atlanta Press Club, Olens was asked whether he would involve himself in the prosecution of the scandal.

Olens made two points. First, he said that the granting of immunity to teachers, principals and some school administrators by state investigators would make it harder to chase down malefactors at the top.

The attorney general also said he would involve himself in prosecutions only if local district attorneys recused themselves – i.e., bowed out for a distinct cause, such as a conflict of interest.

Olens’ remarks prompted a call this morning from former DeKalb County district attorney Bob Wilson, who is in Albany investigating similar charges of altered test scores in the Dougherty County school system.

Wilson said Olens was wrong – or mistaken – on both counts.

First, let’s take up the impact of immunity, granted by Wilson and fellow investigator, former attorney general Michael J. Bowers. Wilson said:

“That’s both factually and legally incorrect. …..I can tell you as a former prosecutor, you can give immunity to the head honcho – to the kingpin of an operation – and prosecute everybody below. You can give immunity to the lowest-level person in the operation, and prosecute everybody above.

“You can give it to everybody in the middle, and take the guys at the bottom and the top and prosecute them.”

On the matter of prosecution, Wilson said that Olens, as attorney general, Olens has concurrent jurisdiction in all CRCT cases, though the former DeKalb prosecutor admitted Olens may be holding back as a matter of courtesy:

“The attorney general has jurisdiction in his own right. He can ask the district attorneys to allow him to present something to the grand juries. D.A.s grant grand jury time to the attorney general with some regularity.”

Bowers, Wilson said, was of the same opinion. We asked Olens for a response, and spokeswoman Lauren Kane sent the following:

”Given that Special Assistant District Attorneys Bob Wilson and Mike Bowers made the decision to take the case to the local district attorneys, got sworn in as special assistant district attorneys, and granted immunity in their capacity as special assistant district attorneys, we are being respectful of the DA’s prerogative to prosecute these cases.

“As the attorney general said, if, because of a conflict of interest, a DA is disqualified from handling a case, the attorney general’s office will step in and assign another prosecutor to the case.”

Olens did not respond to Wilson’s pushback on the cost of granting immunity.

I’m no lawyer. I do not play one on TV, nor have I slept in a Holiday Inn Express. But it strikes me that behind this exchange is some genuine worry that the APS cheating scandal won’t result in robust prosecution.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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16 comments Add your comment

Wilma

August 8th, 2011
4:51 pm

Withiout the powers and threat of a criminal prosecution there would have been no clear accounting of the cheating scandal. Period. Thank you Sonny.

Oleans seems to support the idea of a meaningful criminal investigation but it’s first of all up to the local jurisdictions to execute or for the DA’s to recuse themselves if they cannot pursue the criminal probe.

If I were a betting man, the crimial probe is done. The country DA’s in Fulton and DeKalb don’t have an appetite for pursuing criminal charges against APS cheaters.

Stephanie

August 8th, 2011
4:52 pm

If it’s really “about the children,” then ALL of these cheaters will be enjoying their stays in a state penitentiary!

MayOnnaise

August 8th, 2011
5:18 pm

Let’s hope Fulton DA Paul Howard opts not to prosecute his fellow bros. He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and if he takes a complicated case such as this he’ll likely screw it up. SAG Olens should prosecute all of the perps to the max.

SpaceyG on Twitter

August 8th, 2011
6:38 pm

Oh good grief. Sounds like immunities were being given out like Viagra at a senior center. So everything will come down to a he said/she said scenario? As opposed to evidence? So yeah, no one should be too shocked when this all turns out to be much ado about nothing any DA in GA can build much of a case on.

intowner

August 8th, 2011
7:16 pm

I’d feel alot better if i thought Olens was qualified for the job like that idiot Democrat he beat at election time.
But i don’t think Howard’s gonna prosecute in Fulton, b/c it might resurrect Kasim’s support of Hall when there was plenty of evidence things were quite rotten and fetid in Denmark.

TIM

August 8th, 2011
7:17 pm

No court proceedings……do it the old fashioned way……off with their heads!

Tamara Cotman

August 8th, 2011
7:32 pm

Fo’ sure I gonna sleep better tonite. Think I’ll be gettin me some Colt 45 and a blunt and hit the classifieds.

CIRESLADY1

August 8th, 2011
8:31 pm

I LOVE ATLANTA!!!!!!

Taxpayer

August 8th, 2011
9:09 pm

Has Olens ever prosecuted or plead a case in court ? That was not his thing even before he was elected to Cobb Commission.

ANGRY AS HELL

August 8th, 2011
9:35 pm

Hey, intowner, get a brain check, why don’t you?! That Democrat that Olens beat in the election, Ken Hodges, is one of the best trial lawyers in the state and was one of this state’s best prosecutors — far better than Bob Wilson, Mike Bowers and Sam Olens.

dougmo2

August 8th, 2011
9:53 pm

From what I have read, the only people who were granted immunity were teachers. No principals or administrators had that option. As far as Fulton County is concerned, Paul Howard could not convict a dog for barking.

The Truth

August 8th, 2011
10:00 pm

We have a travesty on our hands with this entire fiasco. To even think for a second that these “educators” who committed criminal acts by altering official records for the purpose of financial gain would escape prosecution is beyond belief. Why is their prosecution even a question? They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and Beverly Hall needs to be forced to return her Ill gotten bonuses and raises. The situation with APS is a prime example of pathetic management by a Board hellbent on political correctness and racial politics rather than educating young people. Who hired Beverly Hall? Who approved her bonuses? Who approved her contract? Was she the best qualified to lead APS? Or simply a pigmentation hire? Dr Mays must surely be rolling over in his grave. While I’m at it, why are these people on leave with pay and full benefits? In most places that’s what we call a vacation.

If Paul Howard doesn’t have the backbone or gumption to prosecute he ought to resign. This case cries for prosecution. What message would it send to students if those who broke the law escaped without prosecution? it is Paul Howard’s duty to prosecute, he has no choice, why is he waiting?

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SpaceyG on Twitter

August 9th, 2011
9:36 am

Ya gotta stop and ponder… if YOU were a local DA would YOU touch this whole stinky mess? Especially if you could find yourself a nice *Get Out* card somewhere?

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