published Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Motions to dismiss Craft suit shot down

by Monica Mercer
  • photo
    Staff File Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Tonya Craft leaves Judge Marie Williams' chambers at the Hamilton County Circuit Courthouse after her custody hearing Monday.

Although former teacher Tonya Craft and her lawyers are "extremely happy" that a federal judge preliminarily shot down motions to dismiss their $25 million defamation lawsuit, there still is a long road ahead to win the case, they said.

"We wouldn't have filed this case if we didn't think we could win," attorney Scott King said Wednesday. "However, this is not the time to start dancing in chairs. It's rare that a case ever gets dismissed this early."

Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher, broke down in tears in mid-May when a Superior Court jury in Catoosa County, Ga., acquitted her of 22 counts of child molestation and related charges.

By then she already had spent about $500,000 to defend herself and later would appear on news programs such as CNN's "Larry King Live" as the national media latched on to her story.

Less than two weeks after the acquittal, Ms. Craft pursued financial damages against 15 defendants, including ex-husband Joal Henke and the entire Catoosa County government, filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in North Georgia for what she claims were false criminal allegations concocted to ruin her career and reputation.

Filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Harold L. Murphy's first significant order in the civil battle denies all motions to dismiss the lawsuit, but it also requires Ms. Craft to file an amended complaint within two weeks that more fully explains how each of her accusers supposedly harmed her.

View previous stories and videos

PDF: Craft order

Video: Tonya Craft on Nightline, June 2, 2010

Video: Tonya Craft interview with Good Morning America, June 2, 2010

PDF: Tonya Craft files a $25 million lawsuit against her accusers

PDF: Complaint by Eric Echols

PDF: Complaint by Sandra Lamb

PDF: Orders on Rule 22 Request for Media Coverage

Article: Craft custody attempt hits snag

Article: Pushing state to investigate

Article: Attorney questions Craigslist investigations

Article: Prosecutor introduces claim of Craft affair

Article: Witness: Mother of alleged victim made threat

Article: Craft trial entering third week

Article: Parents of child testify in Craft molestation trial

Article: Lead investigator testifies he didn't interview fathers

Article: Second forensic interviewer testifies in molestation trial

Article: Witness testimony recounted off camera

Article: Mother of alleged molestation victim testifies

Article: Second week of craft trial begins

Article: 2 more children testify in Craft trial

Article: First child testifies in molestation case

Article: Nurse who examined three alleged molestation victims testifies

Article: Juror dismissed in Craft trial

Article: Craft was framed, lawyer says

Article: Large jury pool in Craft trial, no jury selected

Article: Child molestation cases stirring emotions

Article: Refusal to recuse stirs legal debate

PDF: Tonya Craft’s defense attorney’s request for the judge to be dismissed from the case

Article: Attorney for Craft asks judge for recusal

Article: Molestation case leads to emotional divisions

Article: Molestation trial moved to April

PDF: Tonya Craft's indictment

"(Ms. Craft) simply alleges that Defendants conspired to violate her constitutional rights," Judge Murphy writes in his order. "The complaint contains very few allegations that describe what each defendant allegedly did."

The defendants, who all accused Ms. Craft in 2008 of molesting her own daughter and two others, can file additional motions to dismiss the case once a more descriptive complaint is filed, Judge Murphy's order states.

Mr. King said they all along had planned to file an amended complaint that goes into greater detail about how the defendants conspired to ruin Ms. Craft. For now they are alleging, among many other things, that the parents of the so-called victims and even the child therapists involved conspired to "manipulate" the children to make false claims of molestation.

Each defendant has filed a response to the lawsuit, denying the allegations and stating Ms. Craft is not entitled to any legal relief.

Mr. King said that, while certain defendants may settle or possibly even could win future motions to dismiss as the case continues, Ms. Craft and her entire legal team are "fully prepared" to present their arguments to a federal jury.

Online: Read the judge's order in the case. Read previous stories.

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False allegations of child abuse happen EVERY day in EVERY state in this country! Not all are sexual abuse however. For us WE demanded the Grand Jury, so the charges were dismissed. They did not have a case. I guess there were enough people willing to lie against Tonya that they thought they could CREATE a case. We sued the state after the charges were dropped against us. But we lost. When we got the lawyer's records and looked through them and found out there were hearings that he didn't show up for and other things. So, we reported him and had him censured. This is the same attorney that is the lawyer for Tonya's husband. Charles Dupree. I wish Tonya so much success in her lawsuit!!!! I heard that the defendants are whining about how are they gonna pay for their defense. The outta be worried about how they are gonna pay when she wins her lawsuit. My husband said she would probably only get leins against property and everything they own. If I were in her shoes, that would be fine with me! Let THEM start their life over like she has had to!

Jan James E Brainerd

July 8, 2010 at 11:22 a.m.
MasterChefLen said...

Time to Pay the Piper, and rightfully so.

July 8, 2010 at 11:52 a.m.
NGa_4_Life said...

I was kind of neutral in my thoughts on this case, but I hope she is successful. What changed my mind is the statement issued by DA Franklin the day after a jury of her peers found her not guilty. His statement indicating she was guilty regardless of the trial outcome was shocking. It also shows his lack of respect for the legal process he is a part of. I think that statement alone should be grounds for a suit and I hope the voters remember that statement when Mr Franklin runs for re-election.

July 8, 2010 at 3:43 p.m.
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