Prosecutors May Testify On Past ‘Mistakes’ Ahead of EPISD Cheating Retrial

El Paso News

Three assistant U.S. attorneys may be called to testify about past “mistakes” amid a push to throw out the case against five former EPISD administrators accused in the district’s decade-old cheating scandal.

According to court documents, lawyers representing co-defendants James Anderson, John Tanner, Mark Tegmeyer, Diane Thomas and Nancy Love are asking U.S. District Judge David Briones to “compel the testimony” of federal prosecutors Debra Kanof, Rifian Newaz and Robert Almonte II.

The defense teams are also asking that the indictment against the edcuators be dismissed. A hearing is set for Thursday at the El Paso Federal Courthouse.

The case is currently headed for a retrial after Judge Briones declared a mistrial in June of 2017.

Briones concluded the prosecution failed to turn over all relevant evidence to the defense teams ahead of the trial. Defense attorneys also claimed “prosecutorial misconduct,” something the assistant U.S. attorneys have denied.

The prosecutors told the court because of the size and scope of the wider EPISD investigation, it had relied on the FBI to provide them with all relevant evidence to submit to the defense.

As KTSM reported, Kanof was removed from the case earlier this spring. The status of Newaz and Almonte II was not immediately clear.

In court documents, U.S. Attorney for West Texas John Bash admitted the prosecutors made errors during the first trial but said they were unintentional.

“The prosecution team made mistakes…,” Bash wrote. “The United States apologizes to the Court and the defendants for those errors. They were largely attributable to insufficient efforts to identify the locations of all relevant materials in the possession of the FBI.”

Bash has given the O.K. for the prosecutors to testify but reiterated his opposition to the idea in the paperwork.

“The inadvertent errors of the prosecution team in this case pale in comparison to the appalling scheme of intentional fraud alleged in the indictmenta scheme that victimized hundreds of students whose educational programs were manipulated to benefit the careers of adults who should have known better,” Bash wrote.

The prosecution alleges former Assistant Superintendent Anderson, along with ex-Austin High School Principal Tanner and then-Assistant Principal Tegmeyer schemed to alter student records to benefit the campus and district.

Thomas and Love, also former Austin assistant principals, are accused of conspiring to retaliate against two EPISD teachers who took part in the FBI’s investigation.

All five defendants have pleaded not guilty and are out on bond. The penalties for their various charges range from 5 to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Mary Stillinger, attorney for Nancy Love, declined comment ahead of Thursday’s hearing. KTSM’s calls to the attorneys were not immediately returned.

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