However, from 1964 to 1995, I lived in the Chattanooga and North Georgia areas and taught for a couple years at the old Rossville Junior High School (that burned down in 1984). I am a graduate of Baylor School (when it was an all-boys military school) and am a graduate of the University of Tennessee, running on the track team. (I received my doctorate at Auburn University, staying in the SEC.) My parents, sister, oldest daughter, son-in-law, and my two grandchildren live in the Chattanooga area, so my ties still are close.
In fact, I read The Chattanoogan more than I read the local newspapers here, and I probably know more of what is going on in the Scenic City than in nearby Frostburg and Cumberland. In other words, while I moved from Chattanooga, I never really left it.
On March 4, I read in the opinion section of The Chattanoogan something about Tonya Craft being hit with a gag order in a child molestation case. Knowing about the numerous child molestation cases that finally were exposed as dishonest witch hunts, I became suspicious. I started to read about the case, and then posted this email in reply to the original Chattanoogan post:
I am not familiar with the details of the prosecution's case against Tonya Craft, but I do believe that any person who is charged with a serious crime should be able to tell his or her story, and be able to tell it in any public forum. First, the prosecution already has been able to tell its side without being restricted by a judge, so we already can see the imbalance. Second, gag orders in criminal cases generally exist to hamstring the defense. For example, in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, the gag order was slapped down only after the prosecutor, Michael Nifong, had given nearly 100 interviews to the media, interviews that we were to find out later had no basis in actual evidence.As I have watched the horror story of a trial unfold in Ringgold, I realize that my worries about a "fair trial" were accurate. However, even though she has had to fight against a stacked deck and a tag team of Judge Brian House and prosecutors Len Gregor and Chris Arnt, she still might prevail, as her attorneys have been carving apart the prosecution's dishonest accounts.
During the 1980s and 1990s, there was an outbreak of "witch hunt" child molestation cases all over the country in which the "evidence" always sounded the same. There were "magic rooms," killing of animals (and sometimes children) that always were imaginary. In all of the cases, the children first said nothing happened, but after being prodded and prodded (and often bullied and harassed) by social workers and other "investigators," the children ultimately "disclosed" things that were illogical, yet were enough in the hysterical atmosphere created by the government ultimately to gain a conviction. However, from Manhattan Beach, California (Buckeys), to New Jersey (Kelly Michaels) to Edenton, North Carolina (Kellys and others), to Fells Acre in Massachusetts (Amiraults), to Country Walk in Miami, Florida (Grant Snowden), to Wenatchee, Washington, there were convictions, and then later overturned verdicts, as the tricks and outright lies of the prosecution were exposed.
Time and again, jurors made themselves believe that people could do things like stick knives into the rectums of little children, yet leave absolutely no marks, or that they could molest children in spaces that were visible to others in the room, yet no one else saw it. In the conviction of Michael Kelly, one juror told an interviewer that, yes, he believed that a number of people who did not know each other got together, took all the children on a boat, and threw them into the ocean to be eaten by sharks. His response: "I believe the children."
I have no idea if the Craft case falls into that category, but the very fact that we have seen a blizzard of these kinds of charges elsewhere that have been made in an atmosphere of hysteria, half-truths, and lies should make one very cautious about rushing to judgment in any case like this, especially one involving a teacher. Yes, we have seen real-live cases in Chattanooga of child molestation, but all charges are not created equally. Furthermore, as one who has written many articles about the ways prosecutors abuse the law and their own powerful positions, I always am skeptical when I see the kind of prosecutorial grandstanding that has accompanied this and other such cases.
A person charged with child molestation already is vilified in the media and in a community, no matter if the charges are true. Social workers have taken away Ms. Craft's children, legals costs are eating away at whatever she and her family have saved, she has lost her home, and even if she is acquitted, will be treated like a guilty person. American prosecutors already have a sorry record of false convictions and American jurors often demonstrate that they are incapable of examining even simple evidence. Given the history of false prosecutions in child molestation cases and the fact that American prosecutors never are punished even when caught lying or fabricating "evidence," I must say that given the circumstances of this case, some skepticism is warranted.
As I said before, gag orders in criminal cases almost always exist to help railroad defendants and protect prosecutors. In child molestation cases, judges often are hostile to the defendants and do everything they can to suppress exculpatory evidence and to limit the defense in every way. I only hope that Ms. Craft can receive a fair trial in Catoosa County, but I have serious doubts that will happen.
Furthermore, the nature of the "disclosures" (as therapists who help children construct false "memories" call them) fit the pattern of the other hoaxes that did so much damage. To make things worse, I realize that some of the "expert" witnesses fall into the category of "the usual suspects" when it comes to helping prosecutors make false charges.
I also have come to realize that there are a lot of people in that area who believe Ms. Craft is not guilty and is being railroaded. Many of them feel helpless and powerless, realizing that the State of Georgia has launched a dishonest and abusive prosecution, and that prosecutors in Georgia (as in most states) seem to be invulnerable.
Furthermore, they see House trying every way to limit the introduction of the truth in his permitting the prosecution to employ its nebulous three-year window and by allowing Gregor and Arnt to change their story on the "ground zero" sleepover. They also have watched House being openly hostile to the defense and deferential to the prosecution. In other words, they see a judge trying to rig a trial, and they don't like it, yet feel helpless to do anything.
Yet, there is one thing they can do, and what I am doing as well: speaking out. People can voice their views and they can let these public "servants" know that they are watching what they do, and that in upcoming elections, they will cast votes for people who prefer honesty and integrity to "winning at all costs."
Men like House, Gregor, and Arnt should not be in positions of authority and trust. They are not trustworthy people, and they don't care. Arnt, especially, is a bully, a guy who loves to be in a position to inflict pain upon others, someone who taunts a mother who has not seen her child in two years, in large part because he and Gregor decided to ruin her life.
So, seeing people like this running around in the backyards of my home and the home of many of my loved ones, I am speaking out and will not be silent.