Education

Charges to be dropped against former El Paso school administrators involved in cheating scheme

EPISD cheating charges dropped

EL PASO, Texas - Motions to withdraw guilty pleas and agreements to defer prosecutions were granted Monday for three former El Paso Independent School District administrators who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud  the U.S. during a cheating scheme.

Justice Dept. statement on charges dropped in cheating scandal involving EPISD

Former Associate Superintendent of the Elementary Division Maria Flores, former Director of the Priority Schools Division assigned to Jefferson High School Vanessa Foreman and Former EPISD Associate Superintendent Damon Murphy all pleaded guilty in 2016 to the charges.

According to court documents obtained by the ABC-7 I-Team, if Foreman complies with terms and conditions of the agreement to defer prosecution, "the United States agrees to dismiss the charge and agrees not to prosecute Defendant."

There will be a six-month "Deferral Period" where the defendants must comply with several conditions which include not committing any crimes, reporting to a Pretrial Officer, not use drugs and several others.

On Monday, pretrial diversions were also filed for several other former administrators who were charged during the scheme. Former Austin High School Principal John Tanner and former EPISD Superintendent for Secondary Schools, James Anderson, were charged with one count each of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, with possible sentences of up to 20 years.

Anderson was also charged with making false statements to a federal investigator.

By accepting the agreement for a pretrial diversion, Tanner and Anderson accept responsibility and must follow conditions and agreements for six months, then all charges will be dismissed.

In a statement obtained by the ABC-7 I-Team, Anderson said, "I regret any harm that may have been incurred by anyone with respect to my assigned duties as Assistant Superintendent in El Paso Independent School District."

They were accused of fraudulently boosting the district's test scores, attendance and graduation rates to meet federal accountability standards.

Anderson attorney Robert Perez told ABC-7 the agreement is not an admission of guilt, "we're happy it's going to be over. This case had literally over a million documents, had we gone to trial, we would have probably been in trial for a month."

The Department of Justice issued a statement saying in part they accepted the motions, "...to bring finality to the lengthy and complex litigation involving the prosecution of certain El Paso Independent School District administrators and employees."

Last year, Federal Judge David Briones ordered a retrial after federal prosecutors admitted they made mistakes in the trials. Briones ruled there was no evidence federal prosecutors intentionally withheld evidence from the defense, but did say they acted negligently.

Click here for a timeline of the cheating scandal.


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