So often when we hear of cases where a teacher has been accused of child molestation or abuse, our instinct is to assume they are guilty, sick people who should certainly be punished for harming a child. The fact is, however, that regardless of what the court of public opinion says, our laws still state that we are innocent until proven otherwise.
The current drama surrounding Tonya Craft of Tennessee is an excellent example of a woman already guilty in the eyes of the public. Yet the fact of the matter is that the world won't know if the teacher charged with 22 counts of child molestation actually committed the crimes until after her trial starts next week. The accused teacher defended herself by publicly speaking out against the charges. Craft has spoken to members of the media on several occasions in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She vehemently maintains her innocence and furthermore has already stated that she will not plead guilty to a lesser charge as she feels she has done nothing wrong and is completely innocent. Craft also notes that these charges have destroyed her career and put her family through a nightmarish ordeal. This outspoken media strategy Craft and her lawyers put into play did not go over very well with Judge Brian House, who slapped a gag order on everyone connected to the case last week. Craft has suggested in several interviews that while her outspokenness and impassioned pleas of innocence have helped make her a public figure, it is only because of the seriousness of the charges against her that she has gotten as much attention as she has.
The gag order given out by the judge is only a blip on the radar of a case that has already been riddled with mudslinging and speculation. Lawyers on both sides have been accused of witness tampering, withholding vital evidence, and improper gamesmanship. The defense and the prosecution have both slammed one another in the local press at every opportunity. Legal circus aside, Tonya Craft, whether proven guilty or not, is absolutely correct about one thing: Being charged with child molestation is a life altering event and must be taken extremely seriously.