Real Life versus Fiction

Real life wins the weird award every time. The Tonya Craft case was so compelling it drew in a nation. Here was a kindergarten teacher, a woman pursuing her career for 15 years while taking classes to make her a better teacher and out of the blue, three little girls accuse her of child molestation. Most people's first instinct is 'of course she's guilty'. But is she?

Take a few things into consideration. First, in her fifteen years of teaching, not one other student ever made such an accusation. Not one. I'll repeat that. No other student accused Ms. Craft of inappropriate touching in any manner. And some of those students are adults now or just graduating high school. The press surrounding her arrest and indictment by the prosecution team should have drawn children all over this country who had contact with her out of the woodwork. It did, to defend a woman they love and know would never harm a child in any way. The second item is called small town dynamics. Yeah, small town dynamics but taken to an nth degree.

So, while the dust settles and Ms. Craft works on getting her children back, I pull out a manuscript I put away years ago, taking advice an editor would never believe it, and brush it off. Long before I ever heard of Ms. Craft and her agony, I crafted a story of a teen helping her mom overcome these very same charges, with the very same background. I knew of the small town dynamics around here, how some people end up fighting for their reputations and lives due to false charges, yet none of that information ever made it into the public pool of knowledge. Now it has and I can bring this story into the forefront again. Thanks to 21st century technology, Ms. Craft's trial didn't end up happening quietly. The area swarmed with people demanding 'Truth for Tonya' the slogan used by those who support her. The prosecutors and judge kept on with their bizarre antics despite the entire community in Northwest Georgia and Middle Tennessee seeing them on the nightly news for updates. Two ADAs made fools of themselves by concentrating not on the charges against Ms. Craft during the defense portion of the trial but things that might destroy her character, such as getting drunk and falling asleep fully clothed in a bed with another woman, or mowing her lawn in shorts and a skimpy tank top, or even going to Las Vegas for a weekend with another couple after her divorce. Shocking! Even more shocking were the implications these were actions that make a child molester.

Yeah. Right. Even though I have minimal legal training, not enough to defend myself in court but enough to know when something's wrong, I could see the holes in this case from the start. Too many prosecution witnesses 'just remembered' or 'forgot' things until there was no video/audio recordings to back up their statements. Too many 'experts' had very little training, mostly consisting of seminars for a few weeks. Too many witnesses against Ms. Craft ground their personal ax into her in an attempt to punish her for childish slights. This whole case reeked from the beginning of a bunch of high school spoiled brats getting even for one girl taking another's guy. That's all. Very simple. And yet if found guilty, Ms. Craft faced the rest of her life in prison.

As I lay out the characters and scenery for this book, I wonder how many others in this area suffered as she did. Most of the chapters are already written but with the deeper characters and totally southern anachronisms, I'll have a novel worth reading when this is done. I only hope I can keep to the same tenet Ms. Craft uses to urge her supporters not to treat those who lied in the same way they did her. Make sure the children don't suffer.