RINGGOLD, Ga. — A prosecutor in the child molestation case of a former schoolteacher on Tuesday brought up alleged incidents involving the defendant and other adults.
When Catoosa County Assistant District Attorney Len Gregor cross-examined defense witness Paula “Dee” Potter on Tuesday morning, he asked about her knowledge of affairs that Tonya Craft is alleged to have had as well as her involvement in beauty fitness pageants.
Ms. Potter was called to the witness stand in Catoosa County Superior Court in the trial of Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. The charges involve three children.
During his cross-examination of Ms. Potter, Mr. Gregor asked a list of questions that attacked the character of Ms. Craft. Among other questions, he asked Ms. Potter if she knew about several incidents in which Ms. Craft was intoxicated and wore inappropriate clothing in public.
Ms. Potter testified that she was aware of a few of the incidents in Ms. Craft’s past, but she said the teacher never had acted inappropriately around her.
Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tonya Craft leaves the Catoosa County Courthouse..
When Mr. Gregor asked if she and her husband had been involved in an affair with Ms. Craft, she said no.
While the jury was out on a break, defense attorney Cary King asked Judge Brian House to exclude any more evidence about Ms. Craft’s alleged incidents with other adults. He cited several rulings from various courts, including ones in Georgia, that said evidence should be included only “if it can be linked to the crime charged.”
Judge House denied the request.
Objection to objection
During his cross-examination of Ms. Potter, Mr. Gregor became visibly agitated when Mr. King objected to a question about reports that Ms. Craft sent a promiscuous picture to a teenage boy, saying the state had not entered it as evidence.
He implied that the objection was done for theatricality rather than legal issues.
“I’m a little tired of this playing out to these folks,” Mr. Gregor said, pointing to the spectators in the courtroom and the videocamera being used by the media.
He told Judge House, “I’m not obligated to give (the defense) the material I’m using.”
Judge House agreed that Mr. Gregor could continue with his line of questioning.
Ms. Potter testified that she trusted Ms. Craft with her children and never heard any complaints that the former teacher mistreated any child at her house.
She said she and Ms. Craft were good friends and that from 2006 to about halfway through 2008, her children went to Ms. Craft’s house every day after school.
Ms. Potter testified that the first alleged victim’s mother called her on May 30, 2008, complaining about Ms. Craft and how she treated her husband, David Craft, during a period when they were separated.
“She hated Tonya for what she did to David,” Ms. Potter testified.
She also testified that the mother had not mentioned anything about an alleged incident with her daughter and Ms. Craft.
During the mother’s testimony earlier in the trial, she said that between May 23 and 27, 2008, her daughter had told her that Ms. Craft had touched her inappropriately.
In the afternoon, Dr. Nancy Fajman, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University, took the stand as an expert witness.
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After examining each child’s medical exams on the stand, Dr. Fajman testified she didn’t see anything abnormal from the exams’ photos of the girls.
In prior testimony, sexual assault nurse examiner Sharon Anderson testified that, after she examined the three alleged victims, two girls showed “suspicious” physical signs “that were consistent with sexual abuse.”
During Dr. Fajman’s cross-examination, Mr. Arnt cited several scientific articles that said many victims of sexual abuse don’t show any physical signs.
Dr. Fajman agreed that many cases of sexual abuse don’t show any physical evidence.
Joy Lukachick is a crime reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing down ...