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Charter school white collar crime: Innocent until proven guilty


Ten years ago, charter schools were a small segment of Georgia's public schools. But over the last ten years, with the benefit of substantial tax revenues and the attractiveness of relative autonomy for a small board of directors to design an approved teaching a curriculum, enrollment has jumped to nearly 100,000 students statewide.

Teachers benefit from small class size, and the specific focuses - such as art, science, languages and project based learning - allow students and parents to choose an academic structure providing students the oppurtunity to thrive. But do these freedoms come with a downside?

A charge is just a charge

Last spring, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, mismanaged funds and fiduciary neglect left one charter school reeling: The founder of and director of finances at Latin Academy Charter School, was charged with several counts of theft and fraud amid allegations that he stole, embezzled and otherwise misappropriated school funds. The Fulton County White Collar Crimes Unit will head the prosecution.

It's important to recognize that, despite the charges against against an individual, he is not guilty unless, and until, his guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. While the media has provided alleged case-specific information, until all the evidence is presented to a judge or jury, carefully examined and a verdict rendered, there remains a presumption of innocence.

It's the prosecution's burden

Fraud, theft and embezzlement charges often carry significant penalties, including jail time and fines. As such, anyone accused of these crimes is guaranteed the right to a fair trial. The prosecution is required to prove the charges against you - you are not required to prove the charges false. Cases can hinge on, among other things, whether evidence was properly obtained, credibility of witnesses, and proper procedure.

Experienced defense attorneys work toward a variety of outcomes, including dismissal on lesser charges, dismissal of all charges and acquittals. When someone is found guilty, a lawyer works for the best possible disposition: Probation over jail time, community service, and restitution. At times some matters can be resolved before and without criminal charges being brought. No outcome can ever be guaranteed, but proper counsel, in any criminal case, can be.

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