ABOUT TONYA


Tonya Craft has fatefully become a name known to many. If she could go back to being a “nameless” unfamiliar person, she would do so in a heartbeat. However, Tonya Craft’s recognition was both unprovoked and needless.

Tonya was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee to two wonderful parents who have always been a staple in her life as well as to the life of her two children. Their support and involvement is a direct reflection of Tonya’s educational journey. Immediately following high school Tonya attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with the desire to become an educator. Tonya obtained her Bachelor of Science in Education and began teaching right away. Tonya started her career in Middle School but soon found her niche with the lower grades. She taught first grade for several years before taking a short break to stay home with her small children. While at home, Tonya began a personal training business and volunteered at church as a Sunday school teacher. Faced with life as a single mother, Tonya carried on her personal training business while simultaneously working as a literacy trainer with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In addition to this, Tonya began her pursuit of a Master’s Degree. As the early childhood literacy grant ended, Tonya acquired a teaching position in North Georgia as a Kindergarten teacher. As a single mother, she worked and went to school full-time, graduating with a Master’s Degree in Education with a reading and literacy specialization. May 30, 2008 is the day Tonya’s life was forever changed. With false allegations of child molestation she lost her home, her career, her reputation, her financial stability, and most importantly her two children.

Years of struggling with the judicial system educated Tonya more than any textbook, professor, or seminar could do. Her naive idea that the legal system is sustained on the foundation of innocent until proven guilty was shattered. Tonya’s mindset was altered in a way that eluded to what the system has evolved into – a game. Tonya was living the ultimate tennis match – only she was the ball being volleyed from side to side.

Tonya’s attorneys will tell you her involvement was like “having another lawyer on the team”. She did not have the expertise they had in the written law but Tonya had the drive to read, learn, and be involved in every aspect of her case.

Tonya is not a vigilante, nor a bitter individual. She recognizes there are sincere prosecutors who pursue the truth, honest investigators who uphold justice, and indifferent criminal defense attorneys whose motivation is the bottom dollar. Tonya has consulted on a variety of cases involving child molestation and many times she has refused to assist after reviewing the discovery available. Her answer is the same when Tonya’s decision to reject a case is stated: “I am not about manipulating the system – I am about the truth being exposed”. As naïve as it may resonate Tonya’s philosophy remains the same: “The words truth and justice should intersect no matter what the cost to either side”.

Many people ask Tonya: “So, will you ever go back into teaching?” Tonya has begun her plight to educate other’s – though no longer in an elementary classroom setting. Allegations arise! Allegations should be addressed! Tonya Craft simply believes these accusations should be treated with the diligent attentiveness they deserve. Her circumstance has educated her on the necessity and urgency of 3 simple words: “GET IT RIGHT”!

Tonya Craft

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

Tonya Craft has been asked to speak to a variety of groups over the last seven years. Tonya has spoken to attorneys at State Bar CLE annual training sessions. Other venues have included faith based organizations, law schools, and motivational conferences. Below is a list of speaking topics Tonya has addressed. However, other topics may be requested based on an audience’s needs and goals.

SPEAKING TOPICS

click on title to show description
Client based representation: Who is in charge?
Many times attorneys forget who works for who. In Tonya’s case she reminded her attorneys that this was a company. She was the CEO and they worked for her. Although this may not be topic attorneys want to hear, it is something they need to hear. Attorneys are to be advocates for their clients even when they have a difficult individual to deal with. In a civil case a parent could be facing dire consequences regarding time they will be able to spend with their child. In a criminal case a client may be facing the rest of their lives in prison. No matter what the possible outcome, attorneys have a responsibility to knowledgeably guide their client while accepting the client has the superior role. Tonya takes a personal approach to remind the attorneys why they became lawyers.
Choosing the correct attorney: Do I have a right to question my attorney?
The average person does not know what attorney to choose or what questions to ask. Tonya can guide individuals through the twists and turns of the legal system. No person should be afraid to question the attorney’s experience any more than they question a surgeon’s experience that is about to perform a major procedure on their most beloved family member. It is not only your right as a client but it is your responsibility.
Witness Preparation
Testifying can be a very daunting experience. There are very few individuals and attorneys that have personally sat on the stand and experienced both direct and cross examination in the most grueling of manners. It is not a matter of manipulating anyone. It is a matter of preparation. No one is more qualified to educate others on the nuances of testifying in a criminal or civil trial.
Defendant testimony preparation: The most important decision one can make
To testify or not to testify . . . that is the question in many criminal trials. It is complex on one hand and simplistic on the other. Tonya has faced this frightening and overwhelming experience. Her attorneys directed her not to take the stand and she did so anyway. Some time after the trial Tonya spoke with a number of her jurors and gained insight on their thoughts regarding her testifying and testimony. Tonya can prepare a defendant to testify and can assist the attorney’s as well as the defendant on whether the defendant should testify. There is no simple answer but it is a fundamental question!
Expert Witnesses – psychological/medical: Educating the jury
Expert witnesses in any case, but especially in child abuse allegation cases, are imperative to a successful defense. Jurors need to be taken on a journey. It is the attorney’s responsibility, through expert witness testimony, to educate the jury on relevant issues presented in the case. In allegations of child abuse and/ or child molestation the expert must help the jury answer two vital questions: First, why do children make claims of abuse if they are not true; Second, why this (or these) particular child(ren) made claims of abuse if it did not occur. Tonya has a deep understanding of what information must be relayed to the jury through the use of expert witnesses as well as how to deliver the information effectively.
Jury Selection: A decision lies in the hands of individuals one has never met!
Why do jurors believe someone is innocent or guilty? What information led them to that conclusion? What evidence was seen as useful to the jurors? What information confused or frustrated the jury? What prejudices or bias did the jury have regarding the charges? How did the defense attorney and prosecutor come across to the jury? The questions are never-ending. Tonya has spoken to jurors on many cases she has worked on, including her own trial. The insight she received is vital to an effective defense. Tonya has learned that no amount of studies or research compare to simply sitting down with former jurors and having a one on one conversation.
Child Testimony: How to question a child on stand – there’s a right way and a wrong way
Many times allegations of child abuse and/or child molestation rise or fall based on the testimony of a child. Interview techniques have an enormous influence on the interview and testimony of a child. Tonya has twenty plus years of experience/education working directly with children. This combined with her personal and professional legal experience gives Tonya clarification in this area that few others possess.
Theory of the case/Trial Strategies
The verdict is in . . . Guilty of Not Guilty. In the face of these two choices it is imperative to formulate a theory that is both believable and compelling. Simply being “not guilty” is insufficient when faced with a false child sex abuse claim. A theory must be fashioned early on in the case to assist the defense in preparing the case as well as laying out the evidence at trial for the jury. This theory must be well thought out, relative to the charges and claims, and easily delivered to a jury of ones peers. Tonya will show how to create the appropriate theory along with the tools to implement each component. Walking into a trial with the mindset: “my client has done nothing wrong so we don’t even have to present a case . . . it’s the prosecutors job to prove he/she is guilty” can send someone straight to prison. “Doing nothing” when faced with claims of child molestation/abuse is simply not acceptable. Additional topics discussed in this presentation: Directed verdict (trial strategies) Appellate attorney present at trial Demeanor: P and D attys Attire for witnesses Witness order
Investigation process: Thorough or deficient?
Unfortunately, there are individuals in positions of authority that believe: “if a child said it, it must be true”. This is not only false it causes many investigations to be over almost as quickly as they began. Once a child makes a claim (or someone on the child’s behalf) there are many times an “all roads lead to Rome” investigation takes over. Tonya has experienced first hand investigators who have handled child abuse claims in an appropriate manner as well as those which have been flawed from the beginning. Tonya gives insight on what to look for as far as an unbiased, solid, proper way to handle these investigations. Tonya can also help shine the light on inadequate, biased, poorly conducted investigations.
Parental Alienation: Children being put in the middle of adult difficulties
Children are frequently put in the middle of adults who have disputes over a variety of topics. Tragically one parent, both parents, other relatives, or close family friends taint a child’s opinion of one parent or the other in both criminal cases and civil disputes. Once a child develops a strong negative viewpoint toward a parent it is difficult for courts to differentiate between legitimate fears and influenced vilification. Tonya has experienced this specific topic with her own children as well as developed an expertise on cases she has consulted on. This familiarity coupled with twenty plus years experience working with children Tonya is able to illustrate how parental alienation occurs, how to address this phenomenon in criminal and civil cases, and how to guide clients through the process of helping their children to be healthy individuals at the conclusion of the case.
Reunification Plan for children: What is in the best interest of the child? What a child needs versus what they want
At the conclusion of both criminal and civil cases a parent may have been denied any contact with their child(ren). Other times there may have been limited contact with visitation possibly being supervised. It is crucial when reuniting a child with a parent to focus on the child’s well being first and foremost. However, many reunification plans continue to treat the alienated parent in a way that communicates to the child the parent is “bad” or “unsafe”. Tonya illustrates how a child can endure severe alienation yet still reunite child and parent in an expedited manner that keeps the child’s best interest as the main focus. When filing any request for an alienated parent to reestablish their relationship a definitive plan must be generated and presented to the courts demonstrating precisely how the plan will be implemented.
Child interviews: Interview techniques determine information obtained - bias v neutral
The “first” interview as presented by the prosecution many times is the forensic interview that takes place in a child advocacy center. However, a child may be “interviewed” a number of times prior to the videotaped forensic interview conducted by the state entity. Did the grandmother ask the child questions? Who first spoke to the child about any allegations? How many questions did this person ask? How long did the conversation last? What type of questions were asked? How many individuals spoke to or asked the child questions prior to the forensic interview? The answers to these questions significantly influence a child’s dialogue at the “formal” forensic interview. Additionally, many interview artifacts must be considered when reviewing the actual forensic interview. Red flags must be recognized and pointed out to the jury. Tonya will present many techniques that can lead to a false claim.
Forgiveness: The thousand pound elephant
It is heartbreaking to have someone you called friend almost destroy your life over a falling out. It is disheartening to have a system you once believed in turn a blind eye to truth, justice, and everything you once embraced. Most of all, it is unbearable to have the father of your children not only falsely testify against you but force your daughter to do so as well. Tonya faced the ultimate betrayal. A life was forever altered. A mother’s hearts was shattered. Yet through it all Tonya forgave each and every person. A heart that once seemed irreparable was restored through the grace of forgiveness that can only come from her Heavenly Father. Tonya shares her journey from the darkest place one can imagine to the glorious freedom only God can bring about: complete and utter forgiveness for those who wronged her.

SPEAKING REQUEST

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ACCUSED


This is the true story of a woman who prevailed against the most heinous accusations imaginable.

Tonya Craft, a Georgia kindergarten teacher and loving mother of two, never expected a knock on her door to change her life forever. But in May 2008, false accusations of child molestation turned her world upside down. The trial that followed dragged her reputation through the mud and lent nationwide notoriety to her name.

Tonya’s life spiraled into a witch-trial nightmare in which she was deemed guilty before her innocence could be determined by a jury. Her children were taken away without even a goodbye, and her own daughter was forced to take the stand against her in a courtroom. The situation seemed hopeless, and Tonya was shell-shocked and heartbroken. But that didn’t keep her from finding the strength to fight.

Over the course of two terrifying years, Tonya rallied to take charge of her own defense, flying across the country and knocking on doors on a desperate quest for answers, and defying her own lawyers on more than one occasion. Tonya’s goal was not only to avoid conviction; it was to clear her name, and, most of all, regain custody of her children.

Accused is about more than Tonya’s shocking trial and fight for justice. It is the story of a mother’s extraordinary love, the faith that sees her through it all, and the forgiveness that sets her free.

CONSULTING SERVICES


CONSULTING SERVICES

Tonya Craft has consulted on cases all over the United States. Tonya has narrowly tailored her consulting firm to defending those falsely accused of child sex abuse. Over two decades of teaching and working with children as a decorated teacher, her personal experience in successfully building a team while demanding to be actively involved in mounting her own defense, Tonya’s educational plight that resulted in graduating from law school, as well as her understanding and involvement in numerous cases both pre-trial and post-conviction give her unique credentials in consulting on child sex abuse cases.

  • Review and analyze discovery material
  • Review and analyze videotape interviews of witnesses/ alleged victims
  • Review and locate online social media
  • Create social media reports
  • Create timelines and master chronologies
  • Design a web of pertinent individuals (both for team use and to present to jury)
  • Create spreadsheets
    • Comparing discrepancies in statements
    • Comparing inconsistencies in discovery material
    • Comparing inconsistencies in witness/alleged victim’s statements
    • Comparing discovery materials
    • Outlining events and how to prove or disprove
  • Formulate trial strategies and theories
  • Assist in investigation and location of witnesses
  • Assist in identifying and preparing for expert witnesses
  • Assist in preparing witnesses to testify
  • Assist in preparing defendant to testify
  • Trial exhibit preparation (either physical demonstratives or technologically presented)
    • Story boards illustrating inconsistencies/discrepancies
    • Timelines to present to jury
    • Webs illustrating relationships of individuals involved
    • To scale layouts of pertinent locations
  • Attending and prepping for depositions (if applicable)
  • Assist in jury selection process
    • Present at trial
    • Pre-trial investigation and report generated of potential jury pool
  • Assisting in formulating direct and cross examination of witnesses
  • Assisting in formulating opening and closing statements
  • Assisting in creating opening and closing presentations for trier of fact
  • Pre-trial research of applicable statutes and case law to strengthen case
  • Trial attendance/assistance
  • Post-trial meetings with jurors individually
    • Formulate spreadsheet based on juror opinions of case

TRIAL EXHIBITS

Trial exhibits are used to assist the trier of fact/jury in unpacking large amounts of information. A case can have favorable facts to support the theory yet never get properly demonstrated. Story boards, timelines, and exhibits such as these present facts and information in way that is understandable as well as professional. Tonya has spoken to jurors after a trial has concluded to determine what was effective and impactful. In trials where Tonya created exhibits the jurors spoke to their effectiveness and assistance in understanding otherwise overwhelming amounts of information.

Physical demonstratives to present to jury or technological presentations
Exhibit illustrating inconsistencies
Exhibit illustrating discrepancies
To-scale illustrations of pertinent locations
Timeline of events
Story boards comparing statements or information discovered

TRIAL EXHIBIT EXAMPLES
Example 1 Example 2 Example 3

MEDIATION

Tonya Craft is a Rule 31 listed family mediator with the State of Tennessee. Tonya has partaken in mediation in which she was a participant. Her personal experience coupled with her educational qualifications make her a unique mediator. Tonya’s goal is to facilitate mediation in a manner that implements communication as to support a positive step forward for all involved. Each individual comes to the table with a variety of grievances, frustrations, and ideas. Tonya’s desire is to assist in implementing a future plan that can benefit the children, the parents, and the non-material family unit that is produced as a result of the dissolution of a marriage.

CONTACT TONYA

Area of InterestConsulting ServicesTrial ExhibitsMediation