Daily Archives: April 29, 2010

A witchhunt by men who molest the law

[Update: She's been acquitted.] Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of Tonya Craft. I hadn’t either, until I stumbled across this post at change.org. Tonya Craft is the latest lightning rod in that modern day witch-hunt: the sex offender.

But, from all accounts, this isn’t a normal case. This is a shining example of the lengths people will go to, in order to brand someone a villain. The word sham is inadequate to describe the sheer rape of the law that is currently underway in Northwest Georgia at Craft’s trial.

There’s little doubt that a guilty verdict will fail on appeal. Yet Arnt and his fellow prosecutor Len Gregor seem intent on achieving one anyway, no matter the cost. They’ve badgered witnesses with questions about Craft’s exercise and lawn-mowing habits, of all things. They’ve asked whether Craft is a narcissist, and if Craft ever passed out in a girlfriend’s bed after a night of drinking. These so-called “sordid revelations” that the kind that only a puritan (or an unhinged prosecutor) would connect to evidence of child molestation.

The case has gotten weirder and weirder. One defense witness, who let Craft watch her children every day for almost two years without incident, testified that one of Craft’s accusers — who is also a child actress — was “worldly for her age.” “Does that mean she’s a slut?” asked Gregor. When the witness uncomfortably denied the charge, Gregor wondered whether the child might be a “pre-slut.”

While change.org has two posts on the subject, much of the coverage is being done by this man (and this newspaper). The transgressions of the prosecutors in this case are numerous: from claiming that they didn’t have to obey the law, to employing the worst “experts”, to seeking to introduce dubious “prior bad acts”. I could really go on, but that wouldn’t do the story any justice. Instead, follow the yellow brick road from the ridiculous:

Craft’s trial has also seen a parade of so-called forensics experts act as effective cheerleaders for the prosecution. One expert who made an appearance, Holly Nave Kittle of the Children’s Advocacy Center, was openly hostile to questions about her lack of credentials and was unfamiliar with any relevant child abuse literature. Neither did she help her credibility as a witness after she “liked” a public Facebook post by Arnt, in which he wondered “if Tonya Craft’s Defense [sic] lawyers are really insane of [sic] just trying to jack up her defense bill?” (Both Arnt and Kittle’s conduct likely violate Georgia’s ethical rules.)

Another prosecution “expert” involved, Suzie Thorne, lacks a college degree, and her testimony seems highly suspect. When Thorne interviewed one of the children involved during a videotaped session, she asked the girl a whopping 16 times whether “anything else happened.” Each time, the child said no. However, Thorne testified that after she shut off the camera, the child left the room and then returned — suddenly remembering that yes, Craft had sexually abused her.

Fair enough. But then why didn’t Thorne record this statement, or press the child for more information on camera?

to the “what the fuck are you talking about?”:

“Do you know anything about a time that Ms. Craft came to the door of her home dressed only in a towel to meet a first-time date?” “No, I do not,” said the witness.

Mr. Gregor asked, “Do you know any narcissists?” “No, I do not.”

“Would a good person molest a child?” “No.” “Would a good person insert a finger or thumb in a vagina or rectum?” “No.”

As Noah Arenstein at Change puts it: the prosecutors were becoming increasingly unhinged. At least until the media showed up. But that’s not the worst of it. The man who seems to have defiled the purity and sanctity of the law the most is the judge presiding over the trial: Judge Brian House. Starting with declining (without explanation) to recuse himself from the trial, despite having represented Craft’s ex-husband in his divorce from her, to permitting completely irrelevant testimony about the defendant’s alleged affairs with adults, to not permitting the defense to present any character evidence of the defendant, after permitting irrelevant character-assassination testimony from the prosecution.

We all are aware that allegations of child sexual abuse inflame the passions of most people. But when a woman is so horribly being railroaded in a trial, where the singular aim seems to be to obtain a conviction in the face of damning evidence suggesting the contrary, where all independent observes agree that even if a conviction is obtained, it is sure to be reversed on appeal, do we know that we’ve crossed the line from hysteria into madness.

Prosecutors so abusing their power and a judge sanctioning the farce is a damning indictment of the lengths we will go to to demonize those that may be innocent so long as a child is involved. Whether Tonya Craft is guilty or not is irrelevant. That the trial is being permitted to be conducted in such an egregious manner casts a dark pall over all of us that hold the criminal justice system here in such high regard.

While this is the first I’ve read about Tonya Craft, this won’t be the last. I hope it’s the same for you.

[You can follow coverage of the trial by reporters on Twitter and use the #TonyaCraft hashtag.]

Every day is Caturday

Cats are popular. They’re even more popular on the internet, which was, as we all know, invented just for cats. Every day is Caturday [here's the ED version of Caturday, which means it's totally NSFW. I mean it, really. Not. Safe. For. Work].

Sometimes, though, the internet bleeds into real life (shocking, I know). And such has been the case the past week, with three stories – two local – involving cats and crime.

First, this tragi-comic tale of Gregory Lesco, who killed the family cat after it ate his pet bird (no, I”m not making that up):

Police say Lesco told them he was doing dishes when the bird flew from his cage to join him and the cat, named Pepper, jumped up and grabbed it. He said he hit the cat in the head with a baseball bat and then suffocated it with a rug.

He says he struck the cat to try to get it to drop the bird, and then suffocated it because he couldn’t afford to take it to a vet to treat its injuries.

Mr. Lesco, not to be confused with the equally bizarre Matthew Lesko, is charged with one count of Animal Cruelty, which happens to be a class D felony, punishable by 5 years in jail.

Then yesterday, I saw this post by Rick Horowitz about a Michigan law that makes it a crime for cats to fight. Since there’s no room in cat jails, they stick the owners in human jails instead:

The City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, apparently has some fairly weird laws on the books regarding animals.  For example, it is apparently a misdemeanor — not an infraction, but a misdemeanor with a real criminal record and a real jail sentence as a potential punishment — not that a simple thing like a criminal record could ever impact anyone’s ability to get a job or a professional license — a misdemeanor to own a cat that fights with other cats.  In addition to making it apparently illegal to have a cat that fights with other cats, Kalamazoo also charges owning a dog that barks as a misdemeanor.

I don’t know if that last bit is true, but the charges will be dropped if the cat behaves herself. The cat’s plan is working. Next step: world domination.

And finally, this morning, we get news of a honest-to-goodness cat burglar. No, I mean that literally. A woman who burgles cats (and there’s another awesome cat picture after the jump so don’t you dare not click through):