Crime

Judge declares mistrial in EPISD cheating scandal trial

Judge declares mistrial in EPISD...

EL PASO - Federal Judge David Briones issued a mistrial in the EPISD cheating scandal trial.

The decision was due to documents that were not turned over by the U.S. Attorney's Office or the FBI.

"I cannot defend this conduct." Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof said. "My counsel and I feel very bad about it. In our long careers we have never experienced anything like this."

The mistrial was issued on the 13th day of the trial and after dozens of witnesses had taken the stand. The prosecution had about 10 more witnesses to go in its case.

Former EPISD Associate Superintendent James Anderson, former Austin principal John Tanner and former Austin assistant principal Mark Tegmeyer are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Government.

"There's been too many problems. I cannot see how I can avoid a mistrial," Briones said. "I am granting a motion for the mistrial. It will be retried."

The mistral was granted based on documents involving a witness that testified Tuesday, former Austin High counselor Maria Rosario Parsley. The defense pointed out this morning that documents involving that witnesses testimony had not been turned over to them prior to the testimony.

Briones addressed the jury after granting the mistrial, telling the six man and six woman panel with three male alternates "I hope you don't feel you've wasted the last two and a half weeks."

Former Austin assistant principal Diane Thomas is charged with retaliating against a witness or a victim. Former Austin assistant principal Nancy Love is charged with retaliating against a witness or victim and false declaration before a grand jury.

The administrators allegedly engaged in schemes designed to discourage at-risk students from registering in schools, to under-represent at-risk student populations within the schools and fraudulently award class credits to students to falsely increase graduation rates of schools, change attendance records of students and manipulate students grade levels to avoid state accountability tests.

TIMELINE OF EPISD CHEATING SCANDAL

• May 2010: State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh launches accusations of cheating against EPISD
• Oct. 2010: Texas Education Agency clears EPISD
• Dec. 2010: FBI confirms investigation underway
• Aug. 2011: EPISD Superintendent Lorenzo Garcia arrested
• Aug. 2011: Dr. Terri Jordan named interim superintendent
• Jun. 2012: Garcia pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud
• Aug. 2012: TEA lowers EPISD's status; assigns monitor
• Sep. 2012: Michael Williams appointed as new TEA commissioner
• Sep. 2012: Jordan steps down from interim superintendent post
• Sep. 2012: Vernon Butler named new interim superintendent
• Oct. 2012: Garcia sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison
• Nov. 2012: TEA commissioner requests external audit of agency
• Nov. 2012 - Feb 2013: Weaver & Tidwell LLC conduct $800,000 forensic audit to investigate cheating
• Dec. 2012: TEA commissioner strips EPISD board of powers; appoints temporary board
• Mar. 2013: Eight administrators reassigned, including Austin HS Principal John Tanner. Students, parents protest. The board reinstates 7 out of 8 after a marathon meeting with 4 hours of public comment.
• Apr. 2013: EPISD releases 'The Weaver Report'
• May 2013: TEA-appointed board takes over
• Jun. 2013: Federal audit released, slams Damon Murphy for role in helping carry out cheating scheme
• Aug. 2013: Tanner placed on administrative leave "due to employee relations matter"
• Sep. 2013: Juan Cabrera named new superintendent
• Dec. 2013: Board of Managers recommend termination of John Tanner and Asst. Principal Diane Thomas
• Apr. 2014: TEA petitions to revoke educator certificates of 11 involved in cheating, including Damon Murphy
• Jun. 2014: Murphy surrenders teaching certificate
• Oct. 2014: Former administrator Myrna Gamboa pleads guilty to conspiring with Garcia in cheating scheme
• Oct. 2014: Election of new board members called for by TEA
• Jan. 2015: Gamboa sentenced to 5 years probation
• May 2015: New board members elected, takes over from TEA managers
• Apr. 2016: Five former EPSID administrators arrested
• June 2017: Mistrial declared in trial of former EPISD Administrators arrested in 2016  

WEAVER AUDIT "BOWIE PLAN" FINDINGS:

• Fall 2007: 381 Freshmen enrolled

• Spring 2009: Only 168 Sophomores taking test, 72 held back, 28 moved to 11th grade

• Aug. 2009: Bowie Counselor Patricia Scott discovers 77 transcripts had been altered.  She tells Bowie Principal Jesus Chavez and Asst. Principal Luisa Kell before going to Kathleen Ortega.  Info withheld from James Anderson, former Associate Superintendent because Ortega and Scott were scared Scott would be fired.

• Dec. 2009: Scott and Kathleen Ortega, the director of guidance services, give documents to James Anderson, which he denies.

• June 2010: Anderson "receives" report


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