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Cotman v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

August 13, 2014

COTMAN
v.
THE STATE

Cert. applied for.

Double jeopardy. Fulton Superior Court. Before Judge Baxter.

Benjamin A. Davis, for appellant.

Paul L. Howard, Jr., District Attorney, Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, John E. Floyd, for appellee.

RAY, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and McFadden, J., concur.

OPINION

Ray, Judge.

Tamara Cotman was charged with conspiracy to violate the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (OCGA § 16-14-4 (c)) and with influencing witnesses (OCGA § 16-10-93) in an

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initial indictment. Cotman was tried and acquitted of influencing witnesses under a second indictment, and she now faces trial for the RICO conspiracy charge under the initial indictment. Cotman appeals, contending the trial court erred by denying her plea in bar and by denying her special demurrer. Finding no error, we affirm.

The appellate standard of review of a grant or denial of a double jeopardy plea in bar is whether, after reviewing the trial court's oral and written rulings as a whole, the trial [328 Ga.App. 823] court's findings support its conclusion. But where the evidence is uncontroverted and no question regarding the credibility of witnesses is presented, we review de novo the trial court's application of the law to undisputed facts.

( Citations and punctuation omitted.) Garrett v. State, 306 Ga.App. 429, 429 (702 S.E.2d 470) (2010).

The State alleges that Cotman, among others, conspired to promote, reward and conceal cheating on the State Criterion Referenced Competency Test (" CRCT" ) to meet rigorous targets set by the superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools (" APS" ). On March 29, 2013, the Fulton County grand jury indicted Cotman on one count of conspiracy to violate RICO in Count 1 and one count of influencing witnesses in Count 4 (" the First Indictment" ). Count 1 identifies 126 acts of racketeering activity and 44 overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy. Cotman is accused of committing one of the acts of racketeering activity, consisting of influencing witnesses. She is also alleged to have taken an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy in that she failed to report a parent's complaint that a teacher gave students answers during the Spring 2008 CRCT. As to Cotman, the influencing witnesses charge set forth in Count 4 is substantially the same as the alleged act of racketeering set forth in Paragraph C.11 of Count 1.

Cotman filed a special demurrer seeking to quash Count 4 of the First Indictment. The charge in relevant part alleges that on or about November 17, 2010, " Tamara Cotman ... did knowingly intimidate Jimmye Hawkins, and other principals under her supervision, with the intent to hinder or delay the communication of information related to the commission of a criminal offense to ... law enforcement[.]" Cotman argued that Count 4 of the First Indictment did not adequately inform Cotman of the facts constituting the offense because it failed to specify how she intimidated the witnesses.

On June 7, 2013, the State re-indicted Cotman solely on the influencing witnesses charge (" the Second Indictment" ),[1] specifying that Cotman intimidated Hawkins by " placing her in fear of retaliation if she cooperated with any investigation and by actual demotion in position[.]" [2] That day, the State also filed a motion for nolle [328 Ga.App. 824] prosequi of the original influencing witnesses charge in Count 4 of the First Indictment and a motion for joinder of the two indictments.[3] Cotman objected to the motion for joinder and filed a demand for a speedy trial ...


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