After a full day of testimony from the defendant, the defense Friday rested its case in the trial for Tonya Craft, a former Chickamauga kindergarten accused of molesting three girls.
The trial, which ended its fourth week Friday, is being held in Catoosa County Superior Court in downtown Ringgold. Friday’s proceedings drew a packed courtroom.
Craft, after fielding questions from defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos and cross-examination from assis-tant district attorney Len Gregor, stepped down from the witness stand late Friday afternoon.
During testimony Craft revealed that the cost of her defense is close to $500,000. She has a team of four attorneys.
Court will resume Monday at 9 a.m. The next phase will be closing statements by both sides, followed by Judge Brian House’s instructions to the jury. Then the case will be handed over to the jury for deliberations.
Craft, 37, faces 22 counts, including 10 counts of child molestation, six counts of aggravated sexual battery and six counts of aggravated child molestation. She has maintained her innocence since her arrest in June 2008. She was fired from her job at Chickamauga Elementary. Her trial began April 12 with the jury selection process. The jury consists of seven men and five women.
As court began Friday morning, Lorandos picked up where he left off Thursday by asking Craft about the evalua-tion she received at the end of her first year at Chickamauga Elementary School. Craft said she was told she was doing a great job and was excelling as a teacher.
The defense was able to shed some light on the “sexy cowgirl” photo that assistant district attorney Len Gregor has repeatedly referred to in the trial.
Craft said that while on vacation with friends Mike and Dee Potter, she purchased a cowboy hat. Dee Potter took a photograph of her on Craft’s phone, Craft said.
Gregor has asked numerous witnesses what they think about a person who would send "a sexy cowgirl photo" to a teenage boy.
Craft said the mother of alleged victim #1 saw the photo in Craft's phone, and after the two had a laugh about it, the mother of alleged victim #1 sent the photo to her son to see if he would respond, because he had just begun dating a girl and the mother wanted to tease him.
Lorandos also brought into focus the night of the famous “limo party,” which has been considered the turning point in the friendships between Craft and the mother of alleged victim #1, as well as Sherry and Dewayne Wilson.
Craft claimed that remarks were made by alleged victim #1 that the party was a "baby party" and that she and the Wilsons’ daughter weren't having a good time. Craft said she got down on her knees to talk to the girl, as she did with every child when they had done something wrong. Craft said she told the child what she'd said was unkind.
Craft said she then told her husband David that she had probably just ticked off two influential families in Walker County. Craft felt like the parents of the children were going to be mad at her and that she had no doubts that the parents of the girls would consider the incident Craft’s fault.
Craft said that after she talked with the children about saying the party was a "baby party," the mother of alleged victim #1, and the child as well, wouldn't look or talk to her anymore. Craft said, though, she talked to Sherry Wilson regarding the incident and clarified what had happened.
As the day of testimony progressed, and as the questions began to get tougher and tougher, Lorandos tried to keep his witness focused. As Craft began to get emotional, Lorandos said, "Stick with me Tonya, you gotta stick with me."
After lunch, Lorandos asked Craft’s opinion on a series of references that have been made by the prosecution. Lorandos referred to the list as Gregor’s "You might be a child molester if..." list.
Lorandos asked Craft about wearing thongs, consuming alcohol, having premarital sex, mowing the yard in a tank top and shorts, going to Las Vegas with her friends, wearing low-cut dresses, flirting with men at the Walker County Gala event, being a fitness instructor, and passing out at a friend's house. After each item on the list, Loran-dos asked Craft, "Does that make you a child molester?" Craft responded "no" to each item.
When Gregor took over questioning of Craft, he touched on the amount of money Craft has paid for her defense. In regards to the $500,000 defense bill Craft said she has accumulated, Gregor stated, "Money cannot buy the truth."
Gregor pointed his finger numerous times at the amount of media attention Craft has gained throughout the du-ration of this case. He asked why she didn't jump at the chance to tell the truth to Catoosa County sheriff’s detective Tim Deal on May 30, 2008, when the allegations came out. Gregor claimed Craft is concerned with the truth and media attention now after the fact, but wasn't then. Craft said she just wanted to speak with a lawyer before talking to Deal due to the severity of the allegations.
The afternoon came to a close with Gregor asking Craft about conspiracy theories that paint an evil picture of Judge House, law enforcement, district attorney’s office, and the alleged victims and parents in this case.
Craft continued to say she has never called this trial a conspiracy, but rather believes this case to be a situation where three little girls believe something happened to them that never did.
Gregor ended with a question he has used several times in the trial regarding criticism of the investigation: "It's easier to blow up a bridge than it is to build one isn’t it?"
Craft replied that “it takes time to do things correct and proper.”
--Walker County Messenger