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Bill Anderson on Chattanooga case - Tonya Craft; Alleged sex crime
Topic Started: Mar 14 2010, 06:09 PM (115,543 Views)
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Friday, June 4, 2010
Hand Jive: How Arnt and Gregor Suborned Perjury
Part I: The Original April 14 Allegations

One of the difficulties that prosecutors face in presenting evidence that involves a lot of different people is making sure the story is fairly straight and consistent. Even if everyone involved believes to what they are testifying, and even if everyone is attempting to tell the truth, there are bound to be inconsistencies with a large number of people.

What happens, however, when these witnesses are part of a larger frame on behalf of prosecutors? Coordinating the testimonies of people who have fabricated reams of material is even more difficult, and a potential train wreck always looms. In the trial of Tonya Craft, that train wreck occurred right as the trial began, on April 14, when (Accuser #1), Sandra Lamb's "child actress" daughter testified. This account appeared in The Chattanoogan:

“She stuck her fingers in my vagina and it hurt,” the young witness said clearly. When asked did anything else happen, the little girl answered, “She stuck her fingers (making a hand gesture as to how) up my back part.” When asked, she replied that it had also hurt.

As defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos wrote in a May 17, 2010, criminal complaint to U.S. Attorney Sally Yates, the "child accuser" detonated what was the judicial equivalent of a major explosion:

At trial April 14, 2010 (Accuser #1) testified that after the June 4th, 2008 interview (with Suzi Thorne of the Greenhouse) was completed...after she had been asked sixteen times if there was "anything else?"...(Accuser #1) was walking down the hallway with interviewer Suzi Thorne and "just remembered" that Miss Tonya put all four fingers together with her fingers and thumb, penetrated (Accuser #1's) vagina. This was quite a shock to the Defense. There was absolutely no documentation of this conversation in any file, document, report or summary. (Emphasis theirs)

One has no idea if this child had rehearsed this line with her mother or prosecutors or if she simply blurted it out on her own. Nonetheless, the prosecution had some explaining to do, and Chris Arnt and Len Gregor apparently were up to the challenge.

(The defense did object to this testimony, given it had not appeared in any of the discovery materials, but -- surprise, surprise -- "judge" Brian House overruled the objections and permitted the child to continue to embellish her story.)

Before examining how the prosecutors decided to handle this hot potato, keep in mind that the child was describing a vicious sexual assault that would have created major physical damage, the kind that had not been discovered in any physical exam she had taken. The CAC SANE Sharon Anderson already had testified, and while she had claimed to have witnessed potential damage to the young girl's vagina, nonetheless the kind of injury that this alleged "hand rape" would have caused would have been obvious, not "highly suspicious."

Thus, the prosecution was already in trouble, as one of its "star" witness had pushed them into a corner. She had alleged an event that was so violent that the injuries would have been evident immediately. Furthermore, this alleged event was not in any of the prosecution's materials, which meant that unless prosecutors came up with a plausible story, then anyone who suspected the whole thing was a frame would have been given even more ammunition.

There were two possible reactions that Arnt and Gregor could have made to the child's bombshell. The first one would have been for them to have told House that this account surely was exaggerated, and that there was no physical evidence to back up the claim. They would have reasoned that children sometimes are carried away and that the jurors should understand that child witnesses can exaggerate, but that the exaggeration did not take away from the "truth" of her allegations. In other words, had House and his tag team of prosecutors been thinking clearly, they would have let the objection stand and back off this horrendous claim.

However, they decided that if they were in for a dime, they were in for a dollar, and one can understand their thinking, as deceitful and dishonest as it was. These are people who are used to having their own way, and House always was happy to stick it to the defense. Furthermore, most likely they figured that these "shocking" allegations would further prejudice the jury.

The problem was that they now had the child making a claim that had not been documented anywhere, and it would have been hard to explain to a jury or to anyone else why such a seemingly important piece of evidence had been ignored. So, after the girl made the audacious claim, the prosecution went to Plan B: the adults would tell even more lies.

Part II: Sherri Wilson to the Rescue

The prosecution had one advantage: it was illegally keeping its witnesses in a "secret room" in the courthouse in which the witnesses could congregate, compare notes, and work on their stories. As an insider told me:

The prosecution has set up a room for the prosecution witnesses (Greg and Sandra Lamb, Dewayne and Sheri Wilson, Jerry and Kellie McDonald, Joel Henke and others...) where they are allowed food and drinks... are allowed cell phones and books. Furthermore, they have their own entrance to the courthouse... and do not have to go through security when entering the building.

Keep in mind that witnesses are not supposed to be congregating before they give testimony, but that precisely is what the prosecutors arranged for the prosecution witnesses and their supporters in this trial. Furthermore, even though these witnesses were put together in a most cozy and privileged situation, they STILL had trouble getting their stories straight.

The first witness to try to patch the hole created by (Accuser #1) was Sherri Wilson, who testified for the prosecution on April 19. Here is part of the account from The Chattanoogan:

Once back at the Wilson residence the two sat on the sidewalk and the young girl told Ms. Wilson that Miss Tonya “had touched her on her privates." Ms. Wilson formed her fingers and thumb and made an up and down motion to indicate how the girl said it happened. (This "disclosure" allegedly occurred on May 24, 2008, and the date will be crucial, as readers shall see.)

Again, the hand motion that Wilson used was one in which the damage to the vagina of a young girl would have been horrendous, and certainly was something that would have caused a lot of pain, bleeding, and other symptoms. With Wilson supposedly having been told about this terrible assault, the defense, while cross-examining her, made the following point, as Dennis Norwood described in The Chattanoogan:

Ms. Wilson, a paramedic who co-owns Angel Life Support emergency services with her husband Dewayne, could not recall whether or not she was required to report sexual assault as a first responder, saying, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to report.”

According to Georgia law all medical personnel are considered as mandatory reporters and failure to do so is a misdemeanor crime. Ms. Wilson testified that she never reported the allegations of the alleged victim to law enforcement personnel, although she did call Detective Steve Keith, a personal friend, to see what the first step would be if her daughter had been assaulted.

Indeed, one would think that Wilson would have been derelict in her duties had she actually learned of a sexual assault in which a woman allegedly shoved her fingers and thumb into the vagina of a little girl. This is not garden-variety "digital penetration." No, this is an out-and-out "hand rape," and one that would have physically and psychologically scarred the child. Furthermore, I doubt seriously if Wilson actually was ignorant of the reporting requirements of the law, and if she was telling the truth when she claimed to have "no idea what I'm supposed to report," then she and her medical operation need to be investigated by state authorities for dereliction of duty.

Nonetheless, there are two troubling facts that make it plain that Wilson was committing perjury:

1. In all of the notes and documentation of the case, Sandra Lamb never once mentioned this particular assault, despite the fact that Wilson claims that she was informed about this alleged incident in the presence of Lamb and her child. One would have thought that a distraught mother would have made something like this front-and-center in her allegations. It does not seem plausible that Wilson would have known about this but Lamb would have been ignorant of it.
2. The first time this alleged incident supposedly was "disclosed" was during an interview with Suzi Thorne at the Greenhouse in Dalton on June 4, 2008. People who are familiar with the calendar know that May 24, 2008, comes before June 4, 2008.

Thus, Wilson's account of this alleged terrible assault has her knowing about it even before the child had told anyone. Granted, Wilson might have special intuition, but I don't remember the prosecution claiming that she was clairvoyant.

There are other red flags as well. According to the police notes, Dewayne Wilson, Sherri's husband, allegedly contacted Det. Steven Keith on May 24, 2008, but reported only "inappropriate touching." Moreover, in none of the subsequent interviews with Thorne, Holly Kittle, and Laurie Evans, is the so-called "hand rape" mentioned at all, which simply makes no sense, given the violence of the alleged incident.

While it is true that much of the prosecution's case bordered on the bizarre or worse, this event stands out, as incredible as that might be. As one SANE told me, given the size of Ms. Craft's hand, the idea that she could jam her fingers and thumb into the vagina of a girl of kindergarten age without it causing bleeding and other trauma is ludicrous. Sandra Lamb surely would have noticed blood on her daughter's underwear in the aftermath of this alleged assault. However, as ridiculous as this story might be, nonetheless, the prosecution decided to run with it, enlisting the Thorne in its attempt to prop up what was becoming the Big Lie.

Part III: Suzi Thorne "Just Remembers"

By this point in the trial, the prosecution was in trouble, and in more trouble than Arnt and Gregor might have realized. However, Suzi Thorne's testimony was significant both in what she said, and what the prosecutors did not ask. I noted in my first post on Thorne's testimony that the perjury was obvious, but it is important to note that Thorne's claim of the phantom June 4 "disclosure" came in response to defense cross-examination, not on direct questioning from the prosecutors.

If that sounds strange, there is a reason for it, as Dr. Lorandos in his criminal complaint to Sally Yates explains:

At trial April 20th Children's Advocacy Center interviewer Suzi Thorne testified that after the June 4, 2008 interview, and after she asked (Accuser #1) sixteen times if there was "anything else?" that child remembered; (Accuser #1) came into her office where she was writing her report of the interview [(Accuser #1) had testified six days earlier that she and Suzie were walking down the hallway after the interview when Accuser #1 "remembered"]. Ms. Thorne testified that (Accuser #1) told her that Tonya had inserted her fingers into her vagina -- and (Thorne) gestured just as (Accuser #1) and Mrs. Wilson had. This was another shock to the Defense. There was absolutely no documentation of this conversation in any file, document, report or summary. It is noteworthy here to explain that the State Prosecutor explicitly refrained from asking this interviewer in his direct examination anything whatsoever concerning the after the interview "remembering." Obviously, to ask a question one knows will elicit perjured testimony is virtually automatic disbarment. (Emphasis theirs, boldface type mine)

However, the damage was done, and on top of that, the defense was complaining loudly that there had been no documentation of this "hand rape." What to do? The prosecution decided that its only hope was a deus ex machina rescue, and Det. Tim Deal was up to the task.

Part IV: Tim Deal's Magic File

The trouble that began with the extra-curricular testimony of Sandra Lamb's former child actress daughter reached its zenith with the appearance of Det. Tim Deal, who attempted to put a paper cover over what was proving to be a giant sinkhole. (During Deal's testimony, Gregor asked if the defense was "lying" about the prosecution's lack of documentation, which proves that at least the guy has chutzpah.)

Yes, Deal claimed to have found the very documentation that had been missing, and it must have been under the defense's nose all the time, which is what elicited Gregor's question about lying. (Again, keep in mind that Gregor was accusing the defense of lying about the perjury being committed by the prosecution. One needs a program to keep up with this nonsense.)

Again, Dr. Lorandos in his complaint puts it into perspective:

At trial April 21st and 22nd 2010 lead Detective Tim Deal testified that his file in the past was in the same condition and with the same documentation "as it is today." Whereupon he produced an Investigative Summary authored by him and Allegedly Dictated 07-08-08 / Allegedly Typed 07-27-08 In this summary, although he was not present for the June 4th, 2008 (Accuser #1) interview, Detective Deal wrote -- "After the interview, (Accuser #1) came back in to speak with Suzie. (Accuser #1) thanked Suzie for allowing her to speak with her and stated that there was something else that she did not tell Suzie. (Accuser #1) then told Suzie that Tonya had inserted her fingers into her vagina and it felt bad." This was another shock to the Defense. This document was absolutely not in the material turned over in discovery nor was it in the material two defense attorneys poured over, a month before trial. (Emphasis theirs)

One should keep in mind that it is a federal crime to make false statement in documents given to federal officials, so Dr. Lorandos, in filing this complaint, was placing his own liberty and career in jeopardy if he believed these statements to be false or if he was being reckless or careless with the truth. That means that he was willing to risk everything he had in order to tell Ms. Yates that neither he nor the other defense attorneys had received the document that Deal magically produced in court during his testimony.

Yes, in this post I am claiming that (Accuser #1), Wilson, Thorne, and Deal committed perjury, and that both Arnt and Gregor suborned perjury. The discrepancies in the testimonies AND in the dates that were alleged are such that there is no other way to interpret these events, unless one believes that all of these events occurred in a parallel universe. Perjury is a felony, which means that the case against Tonya Craft actually did find people committing felonies, but it was the accusers who were lying under oath, not Ms. Craft.

During his closing arguments, Arnt deliberately misrepresented the testimony of Dr. Nancy Fajman, who examined the photographs taken by Sharon Anderson. (Dr. Fajman, as readers recall, said that she saw no damage to the private areas of the three girls who testified against Ms. Craft.) My sense is that Arnt was attempting to keep the "hand rape" lie alive by trying to convince jurors that there really was serious injury that could have been caused by this phantom assault.

Furthermore, it also is clear that if these witnesses were committing perjury, then the prosecution suborned perjury, and the punishment for that is supposed to be disbarment. Whether or not the Georgia State Bar is willing to act is another matter for another post.

Note: I will not be making any new posts over the weekend. However, Monday's post will deal with how Suzi Thorne took statements from Tonya Craft's daughter about her mother putting medicine on her bottom (to deal with rashes because of stomach illnesses and subsequent diarrhea) and turned that act into sexual assault.

Thursday, I listened to Kerwyn read me a transcript of the interview that Thorne had with Tonya's daughter, and it was unbelievable hearing just how Thorne manipulated this little child, tied her into knots, and convinced her that her mother's act of putting medicine on the child's bottom and vagina was bad, thus turning this girl against her mother. Apparently, the sterling "investigators" with the Children's Advocacy Center believe that changing diapers or putting medicine on private places -- something parents do for their young children on a regular basis -- actually is sexual assault.

The child presented NO evidence of sexual abuse, none. The transcripts show a child becoming frustrated as Thorne repeatedly -- and deliberately -- twists what the girl is saying, driving her to frustration and tears. Should one doubt the very bad intentions of the CAC crowd, just read the transcript and you will see what I mean. The Monday post will demonstrate, I believe, just how bad the faith really was.
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Falsely Accused: The Tonya Craft Exclusive

June 03, 2010 12:20 PM

It is a trial that tore a Tennessee town in half...

Embedded below is Steve Osunsami's exclusive interview with Tonya Craft, a Tennessee kindergarten teacher recently cleared by a jury of 22 child molestation charges.

She was accused of molesting three little girls, including her own daughter, who testified against her. She has not yet regained custody of her children and has sued several parties, seeking $25 million in damages.

It is not about the money, she said, but making sure this doesn't happen to anyone else in the future.

Here it is, "A Teacher's Nightmare."
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Tonya Craft Custody Motion Hearing Delayed 1 Week
posted June 4, 2010

A hearing on a custody motion filed by attorneys for Tonya Craft has been delayed one week.

It originally was to be heard by Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Marie Williams on Monday.

That has been delayed until Monday, June 14.

Ms. Craft had filed for the return of the custody of her two children by former husband Joal Henke soon after she was recently found not guilty of 22 counts of child molestation.

Mr. Henke and his current wife, Sarah, want to retain custody of the boy, 10, and girl, 8.
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The Children's Advocacy Center and Brad Wade
Long before the representatives of the Children's Advocacy Center tried to frame Tonya Craft, they managed to do the same with Brad Wade. Unfortunately, the frame worked, and Stacy Long was successful in convincing a jury that Mr. Wade was a child molester, and he is serving time in prison for something that clearly he did not do.

First, if you want to understand firsthand what happened to Mr. Wade, please read the blog that his sister, Angie Granger, has created. Ms. Granger is a real saint, a very lovely person whom I have had the honor of getting to know throughout Tonya Craft's trial and the aftermath. Would be that every man had a sister like this.

Second, the evidence against Mr. Wade was every bit as specious and contradictory as the evidence against Ms. Craft, but the difference was that Ms. Craft had good counsel. The more I read about Mr. Wade's trial, the more I realize just what a difference a good attorney really makes, especially if the client is innocent.

In Mr. Wade's case, we see the information being put together, but it is being put together for an appeal of the conviction, not while the original trial is taking place. For this phase, Mr. Wade's defense has the services of Amy H. Morton, who is well-credentialed in her field and who is utterly critical of Long's interviewing techniques, which are dishonest and manipulative.

Ms. Morton's affidavit notes that children are especially susceptible to biased interviewing techniques, and she goes through a very detailed explanation of why it is important that interviews with children be done according to certain protocols and procedures. As one can surmise, these protocols and procedures completely were missing from what Long and others and the CAC have done.

I must admit that does not surprise me. In my own conversations with CAC people, I get the sense that these people believe that because they "help children," anyone who would question their methods is the Very Spawn of Satan. Their arrogance knows no bounds, and in a recent conversation I had with someone from the CAC, that person even insinuated that Dr. Nancy Aldridge, one of the most respected authorities in the country on interviewing children suspected of being sexually abused, is nothing but a cheap liar. Even though no one at the CAC keeps abreast of the academic and professional literature pertaining to their live of work, nonetheless they have the view of themselves that they are above the fray, and that to question anything they do is to question God Himself.

As I read through Ms. Morton's affidavit, I am struck that she gets it. Here is someone who understands interviewing techniques, and demonstrates that understanding. Thus, her criticism needs to be taken seriously.

In her criticism of Long's interview with one of the accusers, Ms. Morton writes that the interview with one of the children is:

...is riddled with errors and improper technique and represents a missed opportunity to discover whether or not (child's) allegations were influenced by anything other than his own experience. As a result, the reliability of (child's) statements may have been negatively impacted by improper forensic technique.

As an academic, I can say that while the layperson might look on this as ambivalent, in reality, this is very harsh language. (We are not permitted to say something like, "Whoever interviewed this kid is a total idiot, and should be cleaning toilets instead of engaging in forensic interviews." People like Ms. Morton might LIKE to be able to say something like that, but court documents do not permit such strongly-worded statements.)

Ms. Morton points out that the interviews were biased from the start, and that Long engaged in "leading questions," along with "repeated questioning" and a "confirmatory bias," which is a bias in which the interviewer has pre-conceived outcomes. Furthermore, Long failed to deal with "coaching" and "third-party influence."

Moreover, Ms. Morton found evidence that the actions of the accusing children did not square with what they were alleging in their interviews with Long, all of which Ms. Morton writes "makes reliability a significant concern in this case." This is the professional's way of declaring that there were red flags all over the place.

Of course, Long is not a serious interviewer. The entire process was done to offer Wade up to the prosecution, and Len Gregor (who prosecuted this case) and "judge" Kristina Cook Graham were all too happy to be part of the railroad.

What happened? An innocent man was sentenced to prison while the real criminals at the CAC and the LMJC are free. If the Tonya Craft case made your blood boil, well let us just say that the Brad Wade case will turn your blood white hot.
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Craft child custody hearing put on hold one week
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

By: Monica Mercer (Contact)

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Tonya Craft, left, holds her husband David Craft's hand as they walk toward their car after testifying in her trial at the Catoosa County Courthouse in Ringgold, Ga.

A former schoolteacher's quest to get her children back after her acquittal on child molestation charges is on hold until next Monday.

Tonya Craft, who endured a recent five-week trial in a North Georgia court that resulted in her acquittal on all charges -- including allegations that she had molested her own daughter and others -- is scheduled to be in Hamilton County Circuit Court for a June 14 hearing to establish a visitation routine while she fights to regain permanent custody of her son and daughter.

It was not immediately clear why the hearing, originally scheduled for Monday, was postponed. Ms. Craft's two attorneys did not return calls seeking comment on whether or not mediation might take place this week in lieu of a court appearance.

Charles Dupree, the attorney for Ms. Craft's ex-husband Joal Henke, also could not be reached Monday. He said in late May that all parties had agreed to lift all restrictions with regard to Ms. Craft visiting her son but that the visitation with her daughter was a different matter.

Mr. Dupree and Mr. Henke are waiting on what the daughter's therapist might say with regard to what the child is able to handle, he said.

Mr. Henke was one of the people who accused Ms. Craft of molesting their daughter, and he has had custody of their two children ever since.

Court papers indicate that it has been "harmful to the children that she has not had contact with her daughter and has had only limited contact with her son over the past two years."

The case against Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga kindergarten teacher, made national headlines. Her acquittal on all 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery was followed by a $25 million lawsuit filed against her multiple accusers.

Mr. Henke is one of the defendants in the lawsuit.
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Jun 8 2010, 01:53 PM

All 4 Lkout Mt Judicial Circuit judges recused themselves from trial of #TonyaCraft investigator Eric Echols, charged w/witness tampering.

Did the judges all throw Arnt under the bus?
Heading for the tall grass, looks to me like.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010
An Open Letter to U.S. Attorney Sally Yates
Four weeks ago Tuesday, a Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit jury in Catoosa County acquitted Tonya Craft of all 22 counts of child molestation in a case that never should have gone to trial. That was then, but the story is not over, and that is why I am writing to you.

Now, you might ask why I am writing to a U.S. attorney and not to the Georgia Attorney General or the governor. Well, I have written to the AG before, and he seems too busy running for governor to do his job, but since you are not running for anything, I figured you might have some time on your hands to look at this case and its aftermath.

If you tell me that this is a state matter, I would have to say you are correct, but there are a number of options that you have, and I guarantee you that if you investigated, you would find paydirt. Furthermore, you would look pretty good running some corrupt government officials into court, letting the rest of the country know that you won't tolerate corruption.

So, where to begin? First, let us try fraud, as that is a popular charge with federal prosecutors. Furthermore, it seems that these people have used federal money via the Mondale Act in a fraudulent fashion. Look, the main reason that DA Buzz Franklin even emphasized "child molestation" investigations was NOT for his love of children.

No, it provided a great way to bring federal money to his office and to the district. Furthermore, Buzz and his "crack" team of prosecutors, led by Len Gregor and Chris Arnt, have been rolling roughshod over the rights of the accused, gaining wrongful convictions, including the one against Brad Wade.

Their partners-in-crime have been the Children's Advocacy Center of Fort Oglethorpe and the Greenhouse in Dalton, and these organizations have provided fraudulent "interviews" and perjured testimony that would warm the heart of corrupt prosecutors everywhere. Furthermore, these two organizations just happen to get federal money, and using those funds to engage in fraud is, well, a federal crime.

Take Suzi Thorne, who used to be employed by the Greenhouse until she became a deputy with the Whitfield County Sheriff's Department. Read the account of her "interview" with Tonya Craft's daughter in which she managed (with the help of federal funding) to twist statements made by a little girl who was about six years old. Do you really want the federal government funding this kind of dishonesty and brutality?

Sooner or later, someone needs to pull the plug on this operation, and you are just the person to do it. The trial of Tonya Craft was a lesson in judicial and prosecutorial abuse and corruption, and the Brad Wade trial was even worse. And, don't forget that with "success" comes...more federal money.

These are people who not only are corrupt, but have done it in broad daylight. You might want to investigate some other cases while you are at it, as I am sure that you will be shocked by what you see. Furthermore, the investigation won't be that difficult, as these people have not even attempted to cover their tracks.

Do you need another crime to investigate? What about a "hate crime" committed by Sandra Lamb in which she assaulted Eric Echols, an African-American who was acting as a private investigator for Ms. Craft, calling him a "black bastard"? Guess what? This one is on video! Hey, better jump on it before the thing goes to YouTube and then everyone sees a federal crime being committed that the feds are not investigating.

If you were to investigate the madness that is the LMJC, you would be a hero. Oh, I am sure that Bobby Lee Cook would object, given that his daughter might be caught up in the whole thing, but the "Matlock Magic" has been gone from Cook's act for a long time and he would not be a political liability for you.

So, the choice is yours. Investigate and be a hero, or sit back and do nothing, and people will become cynical. I hope you choose to do the right thing.
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Jun 9 2010, 04:22 PM
First on 3: Transcript of conversation w/ #TonyaCraft witness that led ADA Chris Arnt to seek indictment of Eric Echols!
Oh, goody!!
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At least here - unlike in Durham and in North Carolina - we have the TV and a major newspaper on our side.

Thank God for small favors!
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Thursday, June 10, 2010
The Eric Echols Case: You Cannot Make Up This Stuff
If I were to have written a movie script about the Tonya Craft case, and added the contrived charges against Eric Echols, add in the "Mommie, Dearest" assault on Mr. Echols by Sandra Lamb, and throw in Buzz Franklin's attack on the jury after it rightfully acquitted Ms. Craft, I would have been laughed out of every producer's office. "No one," they would have told me, can engage in conduct THIS ridiculous.

No judge, the producers would claim, would use, "He's on cross" as a reason to shoot down defense objections, nor would anyone believe me if I had in the script something about a prosecutor screaming about "boobs" while cross-examining a defense witness. Throw in a judge who is reprimanded (and then we find she has failed to pay her dues to the Georgia State Bar for several years) along with witnesses who cannot even commit perjury with a straight face, and you have the makings of something from Alice-in-Wonderland.

Yet, what I have described -- and more -- seems to be the norm for the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, and just when it could not get any more bizarre, well, it gets more bizarre. If the fact that prosecutor Chris Arnt actually believed he could manufacture a criminal case against Ms. Craft's private investigator, Eric Echols, is not strange in itself (demonstrating that Arnt believed he could make up the law as he went along), the fact that all four judges of the LMJC recused themselves from the Echols case ups the ante.

What makes this latest judicial caper so strange is that none of the judges gave a reason as to why they would refuse to hear this case. They just said they won't do it, throwing the whole thing into turmoil. Actually, there does not need to be turmoil, as what Franklin's office needs to do is to drop the charges ASAP.

(If the prosecutors of the LMJC were humiliated by the jury's acquittal of Ms. Craft, imagine what would be the case when the word gets out that the LMJC is bringing false charges against an African-American who clearly committed no crimes. Should they think Tonya's case put them under a microscope, continuing to pursue the charges against Mr. Echols would leave them with no cover at all, a prospect, frankly, that warms my heart.)

With Channel 3 (bless Melydia Clewell and Callie Starns) having dropped its latest bomb, a transcript of Mr. Echols' conversation with Jerry McDonald, the father of Child Accuser #2, more and more people are going to realize that Arnt had Mr. Echols arrested ONLY to keep him from doing any more investigations. Call it what you want, folks, but it smells like obstruction of justice to me.

No, even Lewis Carroll could not have come up with characters like Len "The Man" Gregor, "Facebook" Arnt, and "judge" Brian House, and he could not have imagined a script as weird as what has been the LMJC Show for the past few years. Furthermore, we are not even at the end of this farce, as I believe this while this cheap suit of a judicial district is going to unravel in real time.

Sit back and enjoy the show. Arnt, House, Gregor, "judge" Kristina Cook Graham, and "Buzzare" Franklin have enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame, but now that fame is going to turn into unwanted notoriety, and there is no place for any of them to hide. Eric Echols is not going to be put on trial, is not going to be convicted, and is not going to jail.

I only wish that the real criminals that populate the offices of the LMJC could find themselves taking permanent residence in the Crowbar Motel. However, even as weird and unpredictable as this bad show has been these past few months, I doubt that such a happy ending can be written into the script, even if justice demands it.
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Friday, June 11, 2010
Who is Laurie Evans?
One of the main players in the child molestation hoax in the Tonya Craft case has been Laurie Evans, a licensed social worker who managed to do some of the most human damage, which is saying a lot, given the propensity of the prosecution and its witnesses to engage in scorched earth activities. Evans, as readers recall, was brought to the stand as a hostile witness by the defense, although "judge" Brian House limited the defense counsel in the questions it could ask Evans.

It is hard to underestimate Evans' influence in this case. She was the first person to get a "disclosure" from Tonya's daughter of outright sexual assault, and it is clear that her "therapy" with the child was a major reason the girl turned against her mother. Furthermore, she continues to be a "therapist" for the other two accusing girls, the daughters of Sandra Lamb and Kelli McDonald.

Unlike many of the other "expert" witnesses for the prosecution, Evans actually has credentials, including a master's degree in social work, and is a licensed social worker in both Tennessee and Georgia. The problem that the defense had with Evans was not in her credentials; it was in her performance, which truly was a red-flag affair. That the prosecution would be willing to use her, after everything that was known about her mental health history and a number of the outright preposterous claims that she made tells us that Chris Arnt and Len Gregor are not exactly honest men.

Laurie Evans began her "therapy" with Tonya Craft's daughter and son just two months after being diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). While I cannot post her GAF score in this blog (that would violate medical privacy laws), I can say that her situation was quite bad. The problems were made known during her divorce trial, and the following things were disclosed (as part of public record) in the proceedings:

* She demonstrated "paranoid thinking" and even purchased a handgun (receiving a permit to do so)

* At the divorce hearing, her doctor testified that Evans was having "a lot of anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks"

This should have been the first red flag, but there were more. Evans had asked Judge Marie Williams of Hamilton County, Tennessee, for a judgment of $35,000 from her soon-to-be ex husband be order to pay her $ 35,000 for "emotional pain and suffering," but Judge Williams refused and later held Evans in contempt of court.

In this state of mind, Evans soon after began to "treat" Tonya's two children. When the criminal case began in Georgia, the two children were ordered by DCFS to their father Joal Henke. Mr. Henke enrolled the "accusing" daughter in Ms. Evans’ Children’s Advocacy Center treatment process and enrolled the girl's brother into “treatment” with Ms. Evans in her Tennessee private practice.

Insofar as Henke and Ms. Craft’s divorce and custody case was originally in the Circuit Court of Hamilton County, Henke filed an emergency petition in that court and the case was assigned to the Judge Williams. Despite Henke’s objection and resistance, Judge Williams appointed Linda Hall to be the children’s Guardian ad litem.

Ms. Craft’s Tennessee attorney subpoenaed Laurie Evans’ treatment records from her treatment of the daugher and the son and set a deposition to find out what Evans was doing with Ms. Craft’s children. Evans refused to appear for the Tennessee deposition (several times) and refused to provide the records. Finally, Judge Williams ordered Evans to provide the records and comply with the discovery deposition.

It got even worse. The children’s Guardian ad litem attended both depositions and was so concerned after the first part that she petitioned Judge Williams to immediately prohibit Henke from taking the children to Evans and appoint another therapist.

At the hearing requested by the GAL in the Family case before Judge Williams (remember, just eight months earlier, Judge Williams heard expert testimony as to how ill Ms. Evans was and held Ms. Evans in Contempt); concern was raised that Ms. Evans was “ignoring subpoenas and court orders,” and it was argued that there was a great disparity between what she had written and what she said in deposition. In addition, fear was expressed that Ms. Evans was committing perjury and Judge Williams inquired whether a licensing complaint had been made.

After seeing the evidence, Judge Williams (who is hearing the current custody case between Ms. Craft and her ex-husband Henke) declared:

After reviewing the video taped/transcribed deposition of Laurie Evans, the Court concludes that Ms. Evans’ entire testimony was/is not credible; and that in addition to her lack of credibility, the Court further finds that Ms. Evans’ testimony concerning her diagnosis regarding (Tonya's son) is not supported by her written records; and further, that Ms. Evans’ testimony concerning (Tonya's daughter) was unsupported by any records which this Court has previously ordered her to produce. (Emphasis mine)

Then there was an incident of perjury during a deposition on this case:

Q. All right. And forgive me for this question, but it’s one -- it’s one of these standard ones we ask everyone that didn’t get asked last time. Have you ever been treated for any mental illness or psychological disorder?

A. No.

Interestingly, "judge" Brian House did not permit the defense to enter any of the material shown above into the record. Why was that so, given that she had played an important role in developing the accusations against Ms. Craft? I believe that the answer is obvious; House wanted to keep as much evidence as possible from the jury that would be seen as exculpatory, and would discredit the prosecution's case.

Yet, in the end, the "not guilty" verdict was a rout.

(In future posts, I will have more information on Laurie Evans and the real damage she did to innocent people. She still practices at the Children's Advocacy Center, and despite the fact that people have filed complaints with the professional licensing boards for both Tennessee and Georgia, she continues to see clients.)
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Investigator reveals evidence of conduct
Friday, June 11, 2010

By: Monica Mercer (Contact)

PDF: Echols transcript

Materials filed this week in the Georgia attorney general's office show a witness in the Tonya Craft child molestation case hitting the former school teacher's private investigator and another witness making polite conversation during an interview.

Private investigator Eric Echols hopes the video and transcripts of interviews will contradict allegations that he threatened witnesses in the case.

Mr. Echols now is being prosecuted in Catoosa County, Ga., for attempting to influence witnesses, but always has claimed that his arrest in August 2009 was an attempt to stop his independent investigation of Ms. Craft's case before it went to trial.

A Catoosa County jury acquitted Ms. Craft on May 11 of 22 charges involving child molestation that surfaced in 2008 when she was a kindergarten teacher in Chickamauga, Ga. The case received national media attention, and she now is suing all her accusers in a $25 million federal lawsuit.

All four Catoosa County Superior Court judges since have recused themselves in the separate case against Mr. Echols, including Judge Bryan House who presided over Ms. Craft's trial.

Mr. Echols' trial still is scheduled to take place in September in Catoosa County Superior Court.

"I believe that all the judges signing the same recusal order indicates to me that they are saying 'enough is enough' while sending a message to the district attorney's office to drop these malicious charges," Mr. Echols stated Thursday in an e-mail sent to the Times Free Press.

Catoosa County District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin could not be reached for comment Thursday.

It was not immediately clear how the materials Mr. Echols has made public documenting how he conducted himself as an investigator will affect his prosecution.

The woman in Mr. Echols' video, Sandra Lamb, previously told the media that she is the mother of one of the accusers in the now-closed criminal case against Ms. Craft.

Ms. Lamb is seen in the video hitting Mr. Echols in the face and using a racial slur while seemingly preventing him from leaving her property.

She later complained to police that Mr. Echols "intimidated" her during his visit to her that day.

The father of another of Ms. Craft's accusers also told police, according to reports, that Mr. Echols told him he would be sued "If he didn't drop the incident involving molestation allegations."

But transcripts of the two conversations Mr. Echols had with the father seem to depict a polite exchange and make no reference to threats of legal action.

"It was nice talking to you," the father tells Mr. Echols at the end of the second interview.
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Georgia open records laws.





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Tonya Craft to appear on Larry King program tonight
by Kevin Myrick
06.13.10 - 09:49 pm
The national spotlight continues to shine on Tonya Craft, the former Catoosa County teacher who was found not guilty of 22 counts of molestation last month. After a court date scheduled this morning in the Hamilton County Circuit Court in Chattanooga, she is scheduled for a prime time interview with Larry King tonight.

Craft will appear on the show at 9 p.m., according to King’s blog at CNN.com. Comcast customers can find CNN on channel 37 or in HD on channel 223.

This will be the latest of her television appearances in national media. Previously, features have aired on NBC’s “Today” show, and her attorneys appeared on King’s show after her not guilty verdict was handed down in May.

Since then, Craft’s lawyers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Rome seeking $25 million in damages from her former accusers. She also is seeking more visitation time with her children in Hamilton County.
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Monday, June 14, 2010
Chris Arnt: Super Lawyer or Super Liar?
Watching Chris Arnt run from WRCB-TV's diminutive Callie Starns last month after the arrogant, scorched earth, slash-and-burn tactics that he and his partner, Len Gregor, unsuccessfully used in their attempt to have Tonya Craft imprisoned for life led to my asking a simple question: Is this the conduct one would expect from someone who was named a "Super Lawyer" a few years ago?

Not only was Arnt the recipient of an award from the Georgia Prosecutors two years ago, in which he was feted (cough, cough) as the epitome of the "ethical" prosecutor, but he also was named a "Super Lawyer" by Super Lawyers Magazine. (No, I am not making up this one.)

A couple of years ago, the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia gave Arnt the J. Roger Thompson Award, and the council piled on the accolades. According to Pete Skandalakis, Basic Litigation Chairman and District Attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit, Arnt is a wonderful and "ethical" prosecutor:

“This year’s recipient of the J. Roger Thompson Award possesses the character traits of the type of prosecutor we want to have in this state,” said Skandalakis. “He is a prosecutor dedicated to fairness and has a strong adherence to professionalism, ethics, and moral obligations. This year’s recipient of the J. Roger Thompson Award possesses the character traits of the type of prosecutor we want to have in this state,” said Skandalakis. “He is a prosecutor dedicated to fairness and has a strong adherence to professionalism, ethics, and moral obligations. He is the type of prosecutor we should all try to emulate.” (Emphasis mine)

One does not know whether to laugh or cry when reading this kind of drivel, for if Christopher Arnt is the epitome of the "ethical" prosecutor in Georgia, then God save us from the unethical people. Here is a prosecutor who would stop at nothing to keep the truth from entering the courtroom, who lied to the jurors when he deliberately misrepresented Dr. Nancy Fajman's testimony during closing arguments, and he attacked Dr. Nancy Aldridge, calling her a "whore" and a "liar," despite the fact that Dr. Aldridge is recognized as one of the most respected expert witnesses in Georgia in the area of interviewing children suspected of being sexually abused.

(When cross-examining Dr. Aldridge, Arnt noted that he had taken part in the same conference at which Dr. Aldridge was making a presentation. I'm curious as to whether or not Arnt told conferees that Dr. Aldridge was a "whore" and a "liar" when making his own presentation, or if he held back on such labels. If he knew something about Dr. Aldridge that others did not know, it would seem that this paragon of ethics would have been duty-bound to alert others at the conference that Nancy Aldridge really was a fraud.)

Lest anyone think that I am being unfair to the sainted Christopher Arnt, I will lay out a number of Georgia rules for prosecutors that deal with ethical behavior, and then I will leave it to the reader to see whether this guy is an "ethical" "super lawyer," or just someone who has been allowed for years to play in his own sandbox that is the LMJC.

The first and most important standard for prosecutors in Georgia comes with the following:


The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause;

(b) refrain from making any effort to prevent the accused from exercising a reasonable effort to obtain counsel;

(c) Reserved.

(d) make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or that mitigates the offense; (Emphasis mine)

Furthermore, the Rule states: A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. I don't think anyone can say that applied to Arnt during the Tonya Craft trial, and I doubt Arnt ever has taken that rule seriously. Why do it? He is protected with immunity and by the judges and everyone else in the Georgia "justice" system, so why be ethical and honest when crime really does pay?

But there is much, much more. Let us look at how Arnt performed under some other rules governing his performance. The first one is as follows:


(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly:

(1) make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal;

(2) fail to disclose a material fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by the client;

(3) fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel; or

(4) offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false. If a lawyer has offered material evidence and comes to know of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures.

This is the same Chris Arnt who lied to the jurors (and the jurors afterward noted that Arnt lied), and he participated with Len Gregor in pursuing the false "hand rape" testimony that began with Sandra Lamb's daughter and spread to a number of other witnesses whom Arnt was coaching. Furthermore, Arnt was aggressive in keeping out exculpatory evidence, teaming up with his good friend, "judge" Brian House.

Here are some more examples of "ethical" behavior by Chris "Super Lawyer" Arnt. First, the Georgia State Bar Rules:


A lawyer shall not:

(a) unlawfully obstruct another party's access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value. A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act;

(b) (1) falsify evidence;

(2) counsel or assist a witness to testify falsely;

(h) present, participate in presenting or threaten to present criminal charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.

As we saw with the "hand rape" incident, Arnt did all of the things above, all the way to assisting with Det. Tim Deal's sudden "discovery" of a "missing" document in his files that was not in existence at discovery before the trial began. Furthermore, Arnt had Tonya Craft's private investigator, Eric Echols arrested simply to ensure that Echol's testimony could not be used at Ms. Craft's trial. Interestingly, Arnt's fingerprints were all over the false reports filed against Mr. Echols both by Sandra Lamb and Jerry McDonald. However, Christopher Arnt is an ETHICAL prosecutor, a man that all prosecutors should want to emulate.

We go on. Here is the next rule:


A lawyer shall not, without regard to whether the lawyer represents a client in the matter:

(a) seek to influence a judge, juror, prospective juror or other official by means prohibited by law;

(b) communicate ex parte with such a person except as permitted by law; or

(c) engage in conduct intended to disrupt a tribunal.

While I have no proof of ex parte meetings between Arnt and House, nonetheless people did contact me to tell me they believed that they saw these men together outside the courtroom talking. Furthermore, people who were in the courtroom have told me that House got nearly all of his cues from Arnt and Gregor.

We all know how Arnt and Gregor constantly engaged in the worst kind of courtroom behavior, objecting simply to be doing it, making catcalls, rolling their eyes, throwing books and other objects on the table while the defense was speaking to witnesses, making loud sighs, and generally acting like the spoiled brats that they are. Individuals who are familiar with courtroom decorum told me that what these men did was shocking, but Arnt is above all that, you see, because he is an ETHICAL prosecutor, a man that all prosecutors should want to emulate.

Here is the next one:


(a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a person would reasonably believe to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.

Yes, this is the guy who gave us the Facebook comments disparaging both Ms. Craft and her attorneys, which breaks the rules. (Poor Arnt lied to Channel 9, claiming that his page was "hacked," which can only mean that someone else put up those comments. Given that prosecution witness Holly Kittle gave the post a "thumbs up," I suppose that someone fabricated that, too.)

Then there was the claim that by defending herself, Ms. Craft was "acting guilty," which also breaks Rule 3.6, which makes me wonder how Arnt ever was able to prepare for trial, given he was spending so much time actively spitting in the face of the rules that govern his ethical conduct as a prosecutor. However, Christopher Arnt is an ETHICAL prosecutor, a man that all prosecutors should want to emulate.

Then there were Arnt's pre-trial comments to Channel 9 in which he claimed that Ms. Craft was trying to "poison" the jury pool because she was outspoken in her claims for innocence. In Arnt's words:

When you don't have evidence on your side, when you don't have truth on your side, you have to go out and try to poison the jury pool and that's the kind of stuff they're pulling.

Yes, this came from a guy who presented perjured "evidence," and whose witnesses regularly lied on the stand in a manner so transparent that it was easy to demonstrate their lies. (Here is an example of a lie that Sandra Lamb told.) However, Christopher Arnt is an ETHICAL prosecutor, a man that all prosecutors should want to emulate.

As was declared when he received the Thompson Award: “He is a prosecutor dedicated to fairness and has a strong adherence to professionalism, ethics, and moral obligations. He is the type of prosecutor we should all try to emulate.” How did this guy get such a reputation for "fairness"?

The Christopher Arnt I saw on display during the entire Tonya Craft case was anything but a picture of ethics, professionalism, and morality. If anything, he was the antithesis of each of those things, and he seemed to be pretty darned proud of it. He not only lied and suborned perjury, but he used his authority to gain a false and dishonest indictment of Mr. Echols not because he actually believed Mr. Echols had committed any crimes, but because he wanted to get the guy and his evidence out of the picture.

Why? The less exculpatory evidence that Ms. Craft's attorneys could present at trial, the better the chance for this high-profile conviction. Yes, this is the act of an "ethical" prosecutor, a man whose actual legal skills seem to be lacking, as the only thing he really could do was to brutalize the opposition with the encouragement of an obviously-corrupt judge.

What I saw also opened my eyes to the reasons behind the LMJC's high (98 percent) conviction rate, and perhaps the reason that Arnt gained "Super Lawyer" status. The LMJC is very insular in its approach to "justice." It is OK to have Bobby Lee Cook as an attorney, because Cook is "one of the boys" and part of the local establishment, but it is NOT OK for someone to do like Ms. Craft: get attorneys from Atlanta and (Gasp!) Detroit.

Let's face it; the judges and prosecutors in the LMJC have the system so rigged that no member of the local bar would dare challenge anyone employed in that system. As all the players see it, the job of local attorneys is to appease the "gods" of Franklin by offering up their clients as a sacrifice in a plea deal, and should the client actually claim he or she is innocent and decide to go to trial, then for the lawyer is permitted only to put up token resistance so Arnt and Gregor can get their convictions and the counsel does not tick off prosecutors and judges.

The system "works" because judges and prosecutors run the system according to their rules and brutalize anyone who dares to think his or her client could be innocent of the charges. Let you think I am exaggerating, look at what happened during the Tonya Craft trial.

As observers tell me, long before the trial began, House pretty much was part of the prosecution team. His rulings always favored the prosecutors, and whatever they wanted -- from excluding exculpatory evidence to having a gag order that effectively only applied to the defense -- House gave it to them. Furthermore, House made no effort even to hide his disdain for those "out-of-town" attorneys and his solidarity with Arnt and Gregor.

(During Gregor's cross-examination of Dr. Ann Hazzard, he asked her if competent therapists could be found in North Georgia, and then wondered aloud why Ms. Craft had chosen Dr. Hazzard. Gregor obviously was trying to appeal to what he believed might be jury prejudices, but it seems that Gregor failed to point out to jurors that Judge Marie Williams in Tennessee had appointed Dr. Hazzard to interview Ms. Craft's children. Once again, we see this insularity and prejudice against "outsiders" that characterizes the LMJC system.)

To make matters worse, House teamed with Arnt and Gregor to have a "secret room" for the prosecution witnesses and their friends and supporters. While everyone else had their cellphones, water, food, and reading materials confiscated, and had to go through security procedures just to enter the courthouse, the "secret room" people had their phones and everything else they wanted, and entered the courthouse from a different entrance.

Obviously, this was worse than simple bad ethics. It was outright dishonesty, as the witnesses were permitted to get together before giving testimony, and even then they could not get their stories (or, more accurately, their lies) straight. Yes, this is the handiwork of an "ethical" prosecutor.

If Arnt's fellow Georgia prosecutors think he is the Standard Of Prosecutorial Greatness, then I only can imagine what the rest of the prosecutorial profession in that state is like. Unfortunately, these "ethical" people are protected by immunity, which means they can do what they want and not have to worry about being held accountable for their own lies and lawbreaking.

North Carolina prosecutors already had a bad reputation before Michael Nifong four years ago decided to up the ante, but even that group realized that they had to throw Nifong overboard before he took all of them down with him. One hopes that the fellow prosecutors of Arnt, Gregor, and Buzz Franklin will realize that if these people become the Poster Children for all prosecutors in the state, sooner or later Georgia prosecutors are going to their reputations plunk into the toilet.

10 Questions for Christopher Arnt

In the interest of "fairness" and "ethics," I have 10 questions to ask Mr. Arnt, and if he would like to respond (which I doubt he will), my email address is available through this blog.

1. Did you have any ex parte conversations with Brian House during and before the trial in which you discussed material in the trial, but did not report to the defense, as is required by your rules of conduct?

2. Did you get together socially either with House or any of the jurors during the trial?

3. Since you were the one who actively sought the indictment for Mr. Echols, why have you dumped off the case onto a less-experienced ADA instead of pursuing the case yourself?

4. Did you advise Jerry McDonald to make the statements that he made on the complaint, or did he make those obviously-false statements without any input at all from you?

5. Did you threaten Mr. McDonald with "obstruction of justice" if he refused to be part of the prosecution's "team" for the Tonya Craft case?

6. What discussions did you have with Len Gregor and others after Sandra Lamb's daughter claimed on the stand that she "disclosed" a vicious "hand rape" allegedly was done to her by Ms. Craft? If you discussed that situation with others, how did you decide to get around the fact that you never had that allegation in the discovery pages you gave to the prosecution?

7. When you had Suzi Thorne on direct (the "interviewer" who supposedly heard the "disclosure" of the alleged "hand rape"), why did not you not ask her about this development? Was it because in so asking, you openly would be suborning perjury, since you knew the entire alleged incident was false?

8. Why did you tell Channel 9 that your Facebook page was "hacked," when, in fact, all that was done was that someone had copied an image of the page with the comments that were on it? Are you claiming that you did NOT write those inflammatory comments, or are you claiming that those comments were "private," even though Facebook is a public page?

9. Since you accused all four expert witnesses for the defense, Dr. Aldridge, Dr. Fajman, Dr. Bernet, and Dr. Hazzard, of lying, are you planning on seeking indictments of them for perjury? If not, why not? Are you saying that people are permitted to commit felonies in your presence and you not report such felonies to the authorities? Does that not violate the ethics rules that govern your profession?

10. Did you go on a cruise within the past several years? How would you characterize your conduct on that cruise, and what might others who observed you say about your conduct?
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