A woman was found innocent Friday of kidnapping and mistreating children in the underground network she set up to help youngsters fleeing abusive fathers.
A Cobb County Superior Court jury deliberated three hours before acquitting Faye Yager.
Mrs. Yager, 44, cried and hugged supporters who watched the four-week trial. She said she plans to continue her network, which she says has hidden about 500 child victims of sexual abuse and satanic worship.
She blasted Cobb County District Attorney Tom Charron, claiming he targeted her for prosecution and influenced a woman who accused her.
"Her charges are completely false," said Assistant District Attorney Jack Mallard. "We don't have anything against her per se; just what she's done to children."
She was charged with kidnapping, cruelty to children and interference with custody in her 1990 handling of two Florida children, Alecia and Jarrod Watts, who were 8 and 10.
Mrs. Yager testified that the children's mother, Myra Watts of Merritt Island, said she was fleeing an abusive husband and gave Mrs. Yager permission to question the children during a four-day stay in Atlanta.
Mrs. Watts claimed Mrs. Yager held the boy for two hours without her permission. The children testified Mrs. Yager yelled at them and called them liars. They said they fabricated stories of abuse by their father so Mrs. Yager would return them to their mother.
After the verdict, some jurors hugged Mrs. Yager and told her children, "Take care of your mom."
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has clashed with Mrs. Yager over her practice of hiding children from their parents, said her operation was badly hurt, despite the innocent verdicts.
"From our point of view, that's good," said John Rabun, vice president.
The jurors heard from 55 witnesses and watched hours of videotape, including Mrs. Yager's hard questioning of the Watts children.
The children testified that she pressured them into fabricating stories of abuse.
Mrs. Yager said her motive was to help the children. "I did the best I could under the circumstances. . . . I never claimed to be a professional."