Two acquitted in Philly-area charter school fraud case

     A federal jury has acquitted two defendants in a major fraud case involving four local charter schools including Agora Cyber Charter

    A federal jury has acquitted two defendants in a major fraud case involving four local charter schools including Agora Cyber Charter

    A federal jury has acquitted two defendants in a major fraud case involving four Philadelphia-area charter schools, but has so far failed to reach a decision about the primary defendant, Dorothy June Brown.

    Brown, 76, is accused of defrauding the charter schools she founded of $6.7 million and conspiring with others to cover up the crime.

    It can’t be a good sign for the government’s case that, on Thursday, the jury acquitted defendants Michael Slade, a grandnephew of Brown, and Courteney Knight of conspiring to obstruct justice in the case.

    Both were officials of charter schools Brown founded.

    Two other co-defendants who were charged in the case pleaded guilty and testified against Brown in the trial.

    After five and a half days of deliberations, the jury has been unable to reach a verdict on any of the 60 counts against Brown.

    Brown’s attorney Gregory P. Miller and assistant U.S. Attorneys Joan Burnes and Frank Costello would not comment after the partial verdict in the case.

    Because several jurors have prior commitments, Judge R. Barclay Surrick has suspended deliberations until Jan. 6, creating a highly unusual two-week interruption in jury deliberations.

    According to prosecutors, Brown simultaneously collected three full-time salaries as chief executive of charter schools she founded and collected millions in management fees from the Agora Cyber Charter School she established.

    None of the defendants testifed in the trial. Defense attorneys argued that the charter schools achieved excellent outcomes for students and that Brown’s compensation, while perhaps generous, was not illegal. They also argued that prosecutors had not proved that June and other officials had falsified documents to cover up financial fraud.

    The case is the sixth criminal prosecution involving Philadelphia charter schools in the past six years.

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