Kevin West of WGOW has been a heroic voice in this sorry affair, and he is not the only one there who has stayed on top of this story. (I was a guest on Jeff Styles' show last week, and I was treated very well.) While WTVC remains in the prosecutors' tank, WGOW and others in the media have been asking the pertinent questions and making good observations.
Today, I am posting what he wrote earlier on his blog, as I think his points are very well taken. In his own words:
Everybody's covering the Tonya Craft trial now in Catoosa County. But it wasn't necessarily going to be that way. Some media outlets believed it was "just another child molestation case."
But it isn't. I've never seen anything like it. I started looking into it about the first of the year. Charges were brought back in May of 2008. I remembered the story because prosecutors and law enforcement had going on two years to tell their side of it. It seemed like it was "just another child molestation case" to me.
But it wasn't. It isn't.
What makes it different in my mind?
- Adult female to female child abuse makes up only 6% of molestation cases, according to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorders.
- Ms. Craft passed two polygraph tests. They're not admissible in court, but I've seen the results and on every question it shows "no deceit." No deceit, no deceit, no deceit, etc., etc., and so on to very specific questions involving each of the alleged victims. The tests aren't admissible in court, but they were administered in Morrow, Georgia (near Atlanta) by a former US Army Criminal Investigations Command Polygraph Examiner with 20 years experience, nine years polygraph teaching experience, Master of Science degrees in Criminal Justice and Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement. The guy's good.
- In no child molestation case I have ever seen -- EVER -- have I seen so much support for the alleged perpetrator. It's a dicey proposition to hook your name to an accused molester. That's a crime in which as soon as the accusation is made, you're guilty and you've got to prove your innocence. Backward from the stated foundation of the American legal system, but that's the way it is. And if you associated with an accused, you're just as guilty. Yet in this case, dozens and dozens and dozens of people have publicly stood beside Ms. Craft, unafraid to show their faces, give their names, give their e-mail addresses and give their phone numbers. Let me iterate: I have NEVER seen anything like that before, no matter how "good" the defense team is.
Those three points alone give any reporter reason enough to take a hard look at the case. But then you consider:
- There are bitter feelings involving a divorce. I've been through a divorce.
- There are bitter feelings involving a child who wasn't promoted from Ms. Craft's kindergarten class. I've seen that and the resultant rage that follows when my ex-wife has had to inform parents over the years that their children weren't ready for first grade. It's truly scary.
- Ms. Craft spent all the money she had, lost her house, and her family spent their life savings to defend her. In my experience covering these kinds of cases, I've never seen anyone go that far.
- Ms. Craft traveled to Michigan at her own expense, traveled to the home of her lead defense counselor, knocked on his door at home and told him her story. And he believed it enough to devote his full resources to the case. I've never seen that before, either. An out-of-town attorney isn't going to give you the time of day if you don't have A) LOTS of money or B) a very, very good defensible case. And A) is easily ruled out.
Then you've got re-election politics which were involved at the time the charges were filed. In a rural county, there's nothing better to bolster voter support than catching a child molester.
Absolute conclusion: this is SO not "just another child molestation case."