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Tonya Craft: Did Grudges Lead to Child Molestation Witch Hunt?

Tonya Craft and Others after Acquittal (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Patrick Smith)
NEW YORK (CBS) Tonya Craft, the Georgia kindergarten teacher found not guilty of molesting three preschool girls, says that she is a victim of personal grudges and a broken legal system. But now that her two-year ordeal is over, she says she will dedicate herself to seeing that what happened to her doesn't happen to anyone else.

"It's not about my story, it's about the kids' stories and what they go through in this," Craft told reporters at a press conference Tuesday in Catoosa County, Ga. She said that now her focus will be "other people who are falsely accused. And I'll do anything I can to help protect them and to help protect the children of the falsely accused."

Craft emphasized that her three accusers were as much victims of the past two years as she was, just not in the way that some people thought. Craft and her lawyers say the children, including her own daughter, were manipulated into making the allegations against Craft by mothers with whom she had had a falling out, according to an interview with "The Today Show" on Wednesday.

Craft says that the trouble began when two little girls were caught touching each other. Craft said that their outraged mothers punished the girls and demanded to know how they learned about touching each other. Under questioning, during which Craft says the mothers suggested her name to the girls, the girls eventually told the story about being touched by Craft at several slumber parties at her house, located in the northwest corner of the state, between Aug. 2005 and May 2007, according to the morning program.

Tonya Craft (AP Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press, Angela Lewis)

Demosthenes Lorandos, one of Craft's attorneys, says those flames were fanned by a judicial system that was quick to condemn his client. Lorandos told reporters at a post verdict press conference that his client has had to endure a lot at the hands of a "corrupt judicial process."

"Sloppy interviews...ridiculous last minute falsified fraudulent evidence, [and] terrible interviews of children," Lorandos told reporters. "[Craft] endured it all. She will continue to endure it all."

Craft says that what she wants most is to be reunited with her two children, who she lost custody of when she was arrested in 2007. She was able to have brief supervised visits with her son, 11, but hasn't seen her daughter in over two years. That's because her daughter was one of the three girls who accused her, and testified in court against her.

"My own daughter. That was the absolute hardest thing I've ever experienced, because my job as a mother is to protect her," Craft told the Today Show. "There obviously was no anger toward her. It absolutely broke my heart to see that my daughter had been pretty much indoctrinated to believe things that weren't true."

MORE ON CRIMESIDER
May 12, 2010 - Tonya Craft, Kindergarten Teacher, Not Guilty on 22 Molestation Charges
April 30, 2010 - Tonya Craft: Kindergarten Teacher's Child Molestation Trial Divides Small Community

  • Carlin Miller

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