SAT cheating suspects head to court

Adam Justin, center, is led out of the

Adam Justin, center, is led out of the Nassau District Attorney's office. (Nov. 22, 2011) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

A former Great Neck high school student who faces charges in a test-cheating probe appeared in court Friday, while two others were allowed by a Nassau County judge to remain in their cars.

George Trane, 19, and Joshua Chefec, 20, were represented in court by their attorneys, who assured District Court Judge Martin J. Massell that their clients were near the Mineola courthouse, lawyers on the case said.

The third defendant, Adam Justin, 19, a graduate of North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, appeared in court for the procedural hearing.

Eric Sachs, who represents Trane, said the students were not needed at the hearing. In this case, additionally, they did not appear "for obvious reasons with the media here," Sachs said.

About six reporters and photographers gathered outside court for the hearing.

It's not unusual for defendants to waive their right to appear at pretrial procedural hearings.

"If the judge needs them, we can have them come in," Sachs said.

Justin declined to comment as he left court.

Justin, Chefec and Trane were among 11 people arrested Tuesday and charged in connection with the cheating investigation. Prosecutors said the three men, now college students, were paid from $300 to $1,000 by high school students to take SAT and ACT college-admission exams for them between 2008 and 2011.

All three have pleaded not guilty to charges of scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and criminal impersonation. They are free without bail.

Chefec, a graduate of Great Neck North High School, attends Tulane University; Trane, a graduate of Great Neck South High School, attends Stony Brook University; and Justin, Indiana University. Their cases were adjourned to Jan. 5.

Another alleged test-taker, Michael Pomerantz, 18, who attended Great Neck North, was allowed to delay his surrender until Monday because of a medical condition.

The defendants face 4 years in prison if convicted.

A student at St. Mary's High School in Manhasset who allegedly paid someone to take a test is also expected to surrender on Monday.

The cheating scandal has rocked some parts of the affluent North Shore, where students attend some of the nation's top-ranked high schools.

Sachs said the case should have been handled by the school disciplinary system.

"You have children who are so concerned with grades that they would even think about paying someone to take [the test] for them because they're not smart enough. We have girls who are skinny as can be and think they're fat. This is what we've created," he said.

Attorney Brian J. Griffin, who represents Chefec, said: "There's a reason our criminal justice system is separate and apart from our school system."

In September, six former and current Great Neck North students were arrested after prosecutors said they paid a former student, Sam Eshaghoff, 19, up to $3,600 to pose as them and take the SAT.

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