On Tuesday about 4:30 p.m., rumors began to emerge from the hallways of the Catoosa County Courthouse in downtown Ringgold. Shortly thereafter, defense attorney Scott King gave the nod that a verdict had indeed been reached.
Numerous supporters were slowly escorted into the courtroom, as the verdict was read, and Tonya Craft was acquitted of all 22 counts of child sex charges she has been facing for nearly two years.
“All I can say is thank Jesus,” one supporter said.
Craft, 37, a former Chickamauga Elementary School kindergarten teacher, was accused of molesting three children. The trial was held in Catoosa County Superior Court, with Judge Brian House presiding. She faced 10 counts of child molestation, six counts of aggravated sexual battery and six counts of aggravated child molestation. She had maintained her innocence since her arrest in June 2008. She was fired from her job at Chickamauga Elemen-tary. Her trial began April 12.
Shortly after the verdict was revealed Tuesday, Craft and her attorneys left the courthouse and headed north to the home of Craft’s parents in East Ridge, Tenn., where she and her attorneys held a victory celebration and a news conference.
With family, friends, supporters and news reporters in attendance, defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos addressed reporters, and then Craft herself addressed the crowd.
“I had to expect the worst and hoped for the best,” Craft said.
She said she was in positive shock when “not guilty” was rendered on the first count, but she claimed that she had to wait until all 22 counts were read before she could feel any relief.
Craft went on to say there were no winners in this case and she’s eager to see her daughter and make up for the last two birthdays she will never be able to get back.
After the short news conference, Craft and her attorneys left in a limousine for Atlanta, to catch an airplane to New York. Craft will be making rounds on the talk show circuit over the next few days. She was scheduled to be on the NBC "Today" show Wednesday morning.
Asked what her future would entail, Craft said she always wanted to go to law school before this ordeal took place and now has a renewed interest in the field. She said she wants to help others get through situations similar what she has experienced.
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