UPDATE: TONYA CRAFT NOT GUILTY
Tonya Craft Verdict: Not Guilty - Tonya Craft Found Not Guilty of 22 Counts of Child Molestation
May 11, 2010
Ex-kindergarten teacher Tonya Craft was found not guilty today of 22 counts of child molestation. The Tonya Craft verdict was announced at about 5:30 today.
The jury read the not guilty verdict to all 22 accounts, including molestation, sexual battery, and aggravated molestation.
The Tonya Craft verdict may have gotten Craft out of going to prison, but Craft's life will never be the same. Since she was arrested for molestation, Craft has lost her job and her house...
This case sounds an awful lot like the Dale Akiki and Jim Wade cases here in San Diego. I must say this about our District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis: as much as I am appalled by the abuses of her Public Integrity Unit (now defunct), at least she never did anything this insane.
The timing of these accusations was extremely convenient for the ex-husband of the accused, who who waging a child-custody battle against the accused.
"As the trial continued, many conflicting details emerged. One of the alleged victims admitted to lying in a previously taped interview, and another said she was promised a toy for talking to police. Other times, witnesses said they could not remember pertinent details of the case."
Ex-Teacher's Trial a Sham, Supporters Say
May 11, 2010
Supporters of Tonya Craft are speaking out as both sides anxiously await a verdict today in the five-week trial of the former northwest Georgia elementary school teacher accused of molesting three young girls. Craft's supporters called the entire ordeal a "sham" that should never have been allowed to occur.
"It's divided the community between those who are intelligent and can think for themselves and those who are blindly led," local resident Harmony Lefler told AOL News. "It's horrible to say that, but it is the truth."
Keri Mann, a resident of nearby Chattanooga, Tenn., and a member of the Facebook group Truth for Tonya, agrees.
Tonya Craft arrives at court on May 6, 2010, in Ringgold, Ga.
Billy Weeks, AP
Tonya Craft arrives at her trial in Ringgold, Ga., on Thursday. She was charged with child molestation in June 2008.
"I have not met one person who believes she is guilty," Mann said after closing arguments Monday in Ringgold, Ga. "There are several teachers and former teachers in my family who were all stunned by this case. ... As a future teacher, I am scared to even work in this community because of these allegations."
Craft, a mother of two, was arrested in June 2008, after she was accused of molesting three girls, age 5 and 6. Prosecutors say the incidents occurred at her former residence on Sycamore Drive.
The five-week trial began in Catoosa County Superior Court on April 12. Jurors heard tearful testimony from the three young accusers, who are now 8 and 9 years old, and their parents. One of the alleged victims said Craft molested her "in kindergarten and first grade."
As the trial continued, many conflicting details emerged. One of the alleged victims admitted to lying in a previously taped interview, and another said she was promised a toy for talking to police. Other times, witnesses said they could not remember pertinent details of the case.
A nurse and doctor testified that the three girls in question showed signs "suspicious of sexual abuse," but Dr. Nancy Fajman, a professor of pediatric medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, said she saw nothing suspicious in her review of the forensic photos of the exam.
"I find nothing suspicious about it, and I would report it as a normal examination," Fajman said.
The defense also presented several teachers from Chickamauga Elementary School who said they had no reason to believe Craft had acted inappropriately with any of her students and spoke highly of her as a teacher.
Craft's attorneys argued she was the victim of revenge, following an April 2008 investigation she had initiated when she began to suspect her own children were being abused after her divorce. That investigation, which was later closed, occurred one month before the allegations against Craft surfaced...