Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why I Became Involved in the Tonya Craft Witch Hunt

One of the frequent questions I am asked is why did I become involved in the Tonya Craft case. After all, she is almost 20 years younger than I am, I don't know her, have never met her, and perhaps never will. She lives in North Georgia and I am in the hinterlands of Western Maryland, so to a lot of people, it doesn't make sense.

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.

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.
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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for speaking out and please continue to do so. It is about time the public knows about how unjust the system is in Catoosa County!!

kbp said...

(in 2 short sentences)

Rights violations under the color of the law upsets Bill.

Rights violations under the color of the law in Bill's HOMETOWN really, really upsets Bill.


"...House trying every way to limit the introduction of the truth..."

Something I'm unable to find any reporting on is a recording the prosecutor, Arnt, objected to being played while Tonya's daughter was on the witness stand. A reporter - different than the one whose remark I quoted in a comment on the "lying" prosecutors - but also "VERY well known in that area who has been reporting on this case from early on and was in the press pool watching the case", wrote;

"Defense has tape recording of message girl left for [her mother]. Objection to play it because girl doesn't remember leaving it."

The outcome of that objection was not reported any place I can find. Since the testimony of Tonya's daughter was not completed Friday, possibly bringing her back Monday where that recording in question could be played, I can't rule out that it will be allowed, but I'd think the reporters would have told us if it would.

Just guessing here; evidently that recording would show that the daughter had deep feelings for her mother AFTER she had been placed in her father's custody and BEFORE she had been trained to call her "Tonya", also reported from the testimony. It's possible that ir is some type of 'daddy said' evidence also.

Whatever is in that recording, I have no doubt that the defense can introduce it other ways. This has been CROSS exam, so they are limited on what they can introduce. It can still come in, for instance through the expensive route of an expert testifying who the voice belongs to and a few other ways. The result, if that happens, is the inconvenience, expense and TIMING, a strategic move to NOT have the daughter there to start remembering and testifying about what led to her disapproval of her mother present today.

It forces the defense to RE-CALL the daughter to the stand IF the defense wishes to use that recording to refresh her memory, while the jury watches the innocent child being drug through the process again BY THE DEFENSE! It starts to look a little self-centered of the defendant then, as if she does not care about how this affects her daughter.

TIMING can be very strategic in a case, and Judge House is who controls the clock here in many situations.

Anonymous said...

The problem in Catoosa county is that once these judges are elected they are there to stay until they retire. I dont think they have term limits. They also go by the good ole boy system and they dont like it when lawyers come in from out of town. I have personally witnessed out of town lawyers being shut down. I am ashamed and embarrised to say I live here in catoosa county.

Anonymous said...

You've got that right, they either die or finally decide to retire. It is the good ole boy system!!! I too have witnessed out of town lawyers being shut down in court. It is just wrong on every level and all the local lawyers are just in cahoots with each other.

Trish said...

My son and our family suffered through almost four years of hell, thanks to these very same people. All charges were finally dropped after 3 years and 9 months, however we are still battling to get his visitation with his children from his first marriage restored. None of the judges want to hear it, because they all know about his previous case, which, again was dropped. His X-wife is getting away with being in contempt of court and alienating his children from him, but we can't get anyone to listen. His X-wife hasn't always been this way, it wasn't until she remarried that the problems started. Her husband convinced her to cut our son and us off from the children and our hands were tied until my son's case was over with. Thanks to this lousy court system we have, they are still tied. The new husband also did this to his X-wife and her family. Her parents did take him to court and get grandparents visitation. The so called legal system in Catoosa County is a joke and there is no justice!!!!

Anonymous said...

Fox news would have a "hay day" with the injustice taking place in Catoosa County. Brian House was Craft's ex-husbands attorney in their divorce. The Lamb's have enough money to buy whatever conviction that they want. I am not so sure that the House election wasn't going on during the investigation which would make sense that the Lamb's footed the bill for his election knowing he had a grudge against Craft. The Lamb family is known for getting people fired who "mistreat" their princess. To them
mistreat means not allowing her to rule the world. They are known cheaters at all cost. It saddens me ghat our county allows someone with money to decide the law.

Anonymous said...

If in fact the Lambs gave money to Brian House, I would think that screams mistrial!!! His contributions should be public record, right? What can we do, as citizens of catoosa county, to put a stop to all of this crap?

Anonymous said...

I believe Superior Court Judges have to be reaffirmed by the voters every four years. If the voters do not reaffirm, the Governor appoints someone else.

Anonymous said...

I know Tonya and this is an outrage on any and every level. I also know Joel (alias: Homewrecker).Th at was always his nick name around town. His enjoyment of all this makes me wonder if HE has something to hide? And if the truth prevails and she is not guilty, will Joel and all the crazy moms go to jail?

Unknown said...

I have also been harassed and had my son taken with NO explanation given. My son has been sexually abused in two of the homes and recently was attacked and beaten breaking his nose and eye socket. I tried to complain and Nothing. I contacted my state Rep. Martin Scott, the governor and the office of child advocate where I found a complaint form. I filled out the online complaint form and the office of Child Advocate turned it over to the case worker. She now will not let us visit my son in retaliation for questioning her authority. I thought they were a separate office and is this not a breach of confidence? I need help please any guidance!

Anonymous said...

You may be interested in this case.