published Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Craft was framed, lawyer says

View previous stories and videos

PDF: Craft order

Video: Tonya Craft on Nightline, June 2, 2010

Video: Tonya Craft interview with Good Morning America, June 2, 2010

PDF: Tonya Craft files a $25 million lawsuit against her accusers

PDF: Complaint by Eric Echols

PDF: Complaint by Sandra Lamb

PDF: Orders on Rule 22 Request for Media Coverage

Article: Craft custody attempt hits snag

Article: Pushing state to investigate

Article: Attorney questions Craigslist investigations

Article: Prosecutor introduces claim of Craft affair

Article: Witness: Mother of alleged victim made threat

Article: Craft trial entering third week

Article: Parents of child testify in Craft molestation trial

Article: Lead investigator testifies he didn't interview fathers

Article: Second forensic interviewer testifies in molestation trial

Article: Witness testimony recounted off camera

Article: Mother of alleged molestation victim testifies

Article: Second week of craft trial begins

Article: 2 more children testify in Craft trial

Article: First child testifies in molestation case

Article: Nurse who examined three alleged molestation victims testifies

Article: Juror dismissed in Craft trial

Article: Craft was framed, lawyer says

Article: Large jury pool in Craft trial, no jury selected

Article: Child molestation cases stirring emotions

Article: Refusal to recuse stirs legal debate

PDF: Tonya Craft’s defense attorney’s request for the judge to be dismissed from the case

Article: Attorney for Craft asks judge for recusal

Article: Molestation case leads to emotional divisions

Article: Molestation trial moved to April

PDF: Tonya Craft's indictment

RINGGOLD, Ga. -- With a sweeping motion of his hands, an attorney for a former kindergarten teacher charged with child molestation used the words of an old spiritual to make his point to jurors.

"The facts in this case will show it's the defense that put in overwhelming, gut-wrenching time to bring you the whole picture ... not neckbone connected to the backbone," Demosthenes Lorandos told the jury Tuesday.

Mr. Lorandos, one of four attorneys representing Tonya Craft, said the prosecution's evidence in the case is weak.

But state prosecutors in opening arguments Tuesday used graphic details to describe how it plans to show that Ms. Craft molested three children.

Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher, faces 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation.

  • photo
    Staff photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tonya Craft leaves the Catoosa County Courthouse in Ringgold Ga., Monday evening after jury selection for her trial on molestation charges.

As the second day of Ms. Craft's trial began, a jury of seven men and five women was selected by noon. Authorities spent the rest of the afternoon on opening statements.

Catoosa County Superior Court Judge Brian House adjourned court early to allow the children to testify first today. While the media will be in the courtroom, no public spectators will be allowed while the children are on the stand.

Both sides spent all day Monday questioning more than 200 potential jurors in a larger-than-normal pool. Only the potential jurors were allowed in the courtroom, and even the media was barred from inside.

By Tuesday, reporters were allowed inside the courtroom. Once the jury was selected, the courtroom filled with spectators.

Several potential jurors who were dismissed said the process was long and tedious.

"I was glad I wasn't chosen, because it's going to be a rough trial," said Shirley Black, of Ringgold.

Opening statements began with Catoosa County Assistant District Attorney Len Gregor, who painted a picture of three children harmed by Ms. Craft.

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WHAT'S NEXT

The alleged victims in the case will testify today. The media is allowed to be in the courtroom, but the public is not.

"The actual truth can be cruel," Mr. Gregor said. "(You) may not want to believe that ... someone that works as a teacher could do such awful things to children."

He said each of the three victims complained to an authority figure at separate times and each child was examined by a sexual assault nurse after the allegations were made.

One of the children didn't have clear signs of being abused, he said, but the other two children had "very suspicious" evidence.

When Mr. Lorandos began his statement, he described a very different scene, arguing that Ms. Craft had been framed by the victims' parents.

"We believe the evidence will show ... it didn't happen the way they said," he repeated to the jury more than four times. "It doesn't make sense."

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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