Tonya Craft

I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Immediately following high school I attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with the desire to become an educator. I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Education and began teaching right away. I started my career in Middle School. I taught first grade for several years before taking a short break to stay home with my small children. While at home I began a personal training business and volunteered at church as a Sunday school teacher. I found myself faced with the "single-mother syndrome". I obtained a career as a literacy trainer with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and began my pursuit of a Master's Degree. As the grant ended for the position above I acquired a teaching position in North Georgia as a Kindergarten teacher. As a single mother I worked and went to school full-time, graduating with a Master's Degree in Education with a reading and literacy specialization. With a very competitive nature, learning presented itself as both a challenge as well as a means of being self-supportive financially. I began to research PhD programs along with schools of law. I had always had the inner desire to attend law school but obstacles seemed to prevent that in the past. With a determination to make an informed and constructive selection I requested and obtained information regarding law school admission. The day my life changed forever, May 30, 2008, that packet had just arrived and was UN-coincidentally sitting on my kitchen counter. With false allegations of child molestation I lost my home, my career, my reputation, my financial stability, and most importantly my two children . Any aspirations I had of furthering my education was put on the back burner. Years of struggling with the judicial system educated me more than any textbook, professor, or seminar could do. My naive idea that our system is sustained on the foundation of innocent until proven guilty was shattered. My mindset was altered in a way that eluded to what the system has evolved into - a game. I was living the ultimate tennis match - only I was the ball being volleyed from side to side. My attorneys will tell you my involvement was like "having another lawyer on the team". I did not have the expertise they had in the written law but I had the drive to read, learn, and be involved in every aspect of my case. My innocence has always been a given for them and I have subsequently had many of the jurors to my home including the foreman of the jury. He declared their decision was unanimous and was reached the very first time they voted on all 22 counts. Other individuals actively involved in my case from the prosecution's "side" have reached out to me as well. This set of circumstances confirmed my educations ideals. I entered into law school and began my last year in August 2015. I began interning with the District Attorney's office in Chattanooga, Tennessee this past spring. Additionally, I became a listed family mediator in the state of Tennessee. Speaking opportunities have arisen and in June 2015 I spoke in Arlington, Virginia at The Center for Prosecutorial Integrity Symposium. I recognize there are sincere prosecutors who pursue the truth, honest investigators who uphold justice, and indifferent criminal defense attorneys whose motivation is the bottom dollar. I have consulted on a variety of cases involving child molestation and several times I have refused to assist after reviewing the discovery available. My answer is the same when my decision is stated: "I am not about manipulating the system - I am about the truth being exposed". As naïve as it may resonate my philosophy remains the same: "The words truth and justice should intersect no matter what the cost to either side". My experience will propel me forward to be the voice for those who have far too long gone unheard. [+]