Books for Everyone

Books for Everyone

5/21/10

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.

5/13/10

Not Guilty but the fight goes on

A jury took a day and a half to find Tonya Craft not guilty on 22 charges of child molestation. While the court clerk read the verdict in a sonorous voice said to shake defendants to the core, I knelt in front of my sofa praying to keep hearing those two words all the way through. Ms. Craft, to her credit, remained upright and in control until after the final not guilty. She had her life back but at what cost?

Her children still live with her ex-husband but the motions have already been filed to change that. Ms. Craft's professional life will never be the same. Teaching is now a long destroyed dream. She has expressed an interest in going back to school, to become a lawyer representing not only falsely accused people but the children. That's her one concern as she appears on talk shows from the national networks who finally came to find out what a small town in NW Georgia had going on that was causing so much hoopla.

I can only say I have half the courage and strength as Ms. Craft as I begin to plan a story that gave birth during this trial. A screenwriter friend made a great suggestion, one I plan to take. This story about Southern communities, churches with nothing more than social status on their minds, and revenge as only bored Southern housewives can wreak will come from the same person Ms. Craft is so bent on protecting, a child. But she'll tell the story in the one way Ms. Craft didn't have the chance to experience, as a vocal proponent of her mom's fight for survival and freedom. Thanks to Bill Anderson and the many people commenting on his blog, I have tons of information already. But it will take six months or more to discover the rest. I can only hope Ms. Craft doesn't have to wait that long to hold her babies in her arms again. As one mother to another, missed birthdays and mother's days can be fixed with one phrase that has no qualifications. I love you.

5/6/10

Prayers for Tonya

[[update]]

This is one classy lady and sassy to boot. She got on the stand prepared for her throat getting dry and maybe crying with a cup of water and a hanky. Her answers to the first questions are concise and said without malice. I am so impressed with her. Even when the prosecutors and judge began attacking her attorney's line of questioning, she stayed strong. Prayers going out for you every second, Tonya. Don't let them shake you.

[[end update]]

Week 4 of the Tonya Craft trial is coming close to an end. Tonya's husband has spent most of the day testifying and has confirmed what all of us already know. None of these supposed acts ever happened! But what has happened is small town cattiness and pettiness. Two women with axes to grind and an ex husband made some awful decisions. They probably only thought their actions would cost Tonya her job and kids. None of them probably ever thought their lies would go this far. But this far they have gone. It's fish or cut bait time as my husband says occasionally.

What does that mean? Soon, the jury will have Tonya's fate in their hands. Will those 12 good men and women have the strength of will to look past the hyperbole and see the truth? Can they stand up against a powerhouse of men running this trial? All of the spectators know the truth after almost a month of watching the courtroom antics of Judge House, ADA Arnt, and ADA Gregor. None of those men have acted honorably but they demand that type of treatment from anyone in the courtroom as a spectator. Good thing I made the decision to stay away or I might right now be a guest of Catoosa County's detention center. Why? I have never, ever respected a person for the job they do. Doesn't matter if they are a general in the military, a CEO of a company, or the president of the United States. Respect is given when I know the person does the job to the best of their ability. I do respect people. People who accept they are human and can fail, and acknowledge that. People who don't prejudge a person based on vile rumors begun by a group of small minded individuals who hate anyone that doesn't do what they want the moment they want it. And mostly, I respect people with the guts to stand up for what they believe in.

My blog doesn't have many followers. But you have friends. And they have friends. Pray for Tonya Craft so she knows we are with her during this time of tribulation. Tell your friends to pray for Tonya when she takes the stand in her defense. Yes, in this country, a defendant doesn't have to prove their innocence. In theory. In fact, Tonya Craft cannot avoid taking the stand. Even though she faces screaming accusations from both prosecutors during her time on the stand, even though she must hold up and answers questions with no bearing on the charges, even though she is a private person baring her soul to the public, she must take the stand and defend her actions. The judge in this trial has demonstrated form the day he refused to recuse himself, since he represented her ex husband in a hearing, that he is not willing to be fair and impartial. So, as this week draws to a close, and we hold our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews close. As we take for granted the ability to hug a child on Mother's Day and rejoice in our motherhood, pray for Tonya Craft. It has been more than two years since she heard 'Happy Mother's Day' from her kids. And it may be a lifetime before she ever hears them say those words if the judge and prosecutors bully the jury into convicting her.

For more information on this trial, check out http://williamlanderson.blogspot.com/ or WRCB news: http://www.wrcbtv.com/ They more than most other news reporting agencies in this area, have presented a true view of this unfolding story. Tonya's trial probably won't end for another week. Her children probably won't seen their mother for another four years due to the way things run down here. But your prayers and those of your friends will give her the strength to remember she has support.