published Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Craft files $25 million lawsuit

The defendants

Defendants listed in the suit:

* Sandra Lamb -- mother of one of the girls, who accused Ms. Craft

* Sherri Wilson -- friend of Ms. Lamb who accused Ms. Craft

* Dewayne Wilson -- husband of Mrs. Wilson

* Joal Henke -- Ms. Craft's ex-husband who accused her

* Sarah Henke -- married to Mr. Henke and also accused Ms. Craft

* Kelli McDonald -- mother of one of the girl who accused Ms. Craft

* Tim Deal -- the Catoosa County Sheriff's office detective who lead the investigation

* Catoosa County, Ga. -- the government entity

* The Catoosa County Sheriff's office -- a municipal entity

* Phil Summers -- the Catoosa County sheriff

* Suzie Thorne -- a social worker who interviewed several girls

* Stacy Long -- a social worker who interviewed several girls

* Laurie Evans -- therapists for the three girls

* Children's Advocacy Center of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit

* The Greenhouse Children's Advocacy Center

Source: The U.S. District Court in Northern Georgia court documents

In a $25 million federal lawsuit, Tonya Craft claims her accusers lied in court and conspired to bring false allegations forward against her by manipulating the children involved.

Attorneys for Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher acquitted on child molestation charges, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Northern Georgia on Monday. The lawsuit names the families and agencies involved in her case and the entire Catoosa County government as defendants.

"It's totally ruined her reputation, it's damaged her as a teacher, removed her from a profession she loved, it's removed her from her children for two years," said Clancy Covert, one of Ms. Craft's defense attorneys.

Ms. Craft was acquitted on all 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery in Catoosa County Superior Court on May 11.

The lawsuit, a 52-page complaint filed Monday in Rome, Ga., names the parents of the three girls that alleged the child molestation: Ms. Craft's former husband, Joal Henke, Sandra Lamb and Kelli McDonald.

Mr. Henke and Ms. McDonald declined to comment Monday. Ms. Lamb did not return calls seeking comment.

Ms. Craft's lawsuit states that, during the investigation into the child molestation claims, she was arrested without probable cause, and the three girls were "intimidated and manipulated" with leading question during their interviews.

The suit also claims Ms. Craft's accusers defamed her name by using statements that included calling her "a sexual pervert" and "a physically assaultive and abusive parent."

Ms. Craft also asks that the federal court require the agencies involved, including the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office and both the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit and Conasauga Circuit's Children's Advocacy Center, to change their protocol for interviewing children.

The agencies "took no action to discipline their employees for past unlawful behavior, to prevent the repetition of such behavior, or to take any action against or even adequately investigate the incidents similar," the lawsuit states.

While the Children's Advocacy Center in Fort Oglethorpe did not return calls seeking comment Monday, Director Ione Sells said in an earlier interview that her staff was qualified.

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

"As any organization, if we can change we will," Ms. Sells said in an interview last Tuesday. "But my current staff I support."

The Catoosa County Sheriff's Office, including Detective Tim Deal, the lead investigator in Ms. Craft's case, and Sheriff Phil Summers are also listed in Ms. Craft's lawsuit.

Sheriff Summers said he would defend his detectives and himself "vigorously" in court.

"I feel confident we will be vindicated by the court," he said Monday.

Ms. Craft wants to make sure this doesn't happen to other people, her attorney said.

That's why she and her defense team are "asking the interviewers and those involved received the training and skill set they need to give proper interviews," Mr. Covert said.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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Jhenry said...

I hope Ms. Craft gets every penny she's suing for. Her life is destroyed. She will always be remembered as "that woman that molested those children" not "that woman who was found innocent by a jury of her peers on all charges".

May 25, 2010 at 8:42 a.m.
legend_XIX said...

In all this that Sandra Lamb woman seems to have been the ringleaders, controlling Arnt, the judge and the rest of the prosecution team. What I can't understand is what hold does this woman have over them that they were willing to risk their reputation, their careers for her? How many others she's had a vendetta for and used Arnt(whom she admits is also a personal friend) to destroy lives? Hopefully she loses her shirt in this lawsuit and they all should be put in prison and Big Bertha the prison guard become Lamb's personal prison guard.

Arnt and his rogude team and that judge, since they are immune to being prosecuted, should be barred from ever entering a courtroom again unless they are the ones being charged and having to appear before a judge and jury of their peers. That Children Advocacy Center should be cleaned out from top to bottom and real professionals brought in or shut down completely. It's obvious they were saying what the prosecutors wanted them to say to make a case.

Their little scheme and house of cards hopefully are crumbling and have met their demise, and they will no longer hurt or destroy anyone ever ever again.

May 25, 2010 at 10:16 a.m.
EaTn said...

Remember what your momma taught you before pre-school? Don't tug at the loose thread or you can lose your shirt.

May 25, 2010 at 1:06 p.m.
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