Pair's pleas end sex assault case

Accounts featured Satanism

Staff WriterNovember 28, 2009 

A 2008 Durham case marked by sensational accounts of Satanism and sadomasochism appears to have wound to a close with best-interest misdemeanor pleas by a man first charged with rape and kidnapping, and by a woman charged with letting those crimes happen.

Joseph Scott Craig, 26, and wife Joy Suzanne Johnson, 31, have entered Alford pleas, under which defendants do not admit guilt but concede that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them.

Durham defense attorney Woody Vann said the pleas were entered and approved Nov. 17 in Superior Court. The action brought an apparent end to a case that included testimony that defendants and victims lived in the same house, brought together by a mutual interest in Satanism.

"The evidence doesn't support a criminal conviction," Vann said Friday. "We had adults involved in consensual activities, and they didn't make any effort to report these to law enforcement until months later."

Craig's Alford pleas came on two counts of assault inflicting serious injury and one count of assault on a female, Vann said. Johnson pleaded to being an accessory. Both received consecutive 60-day suspended sentences and a year of supervised probation.

Johnson, a former Durham County Democratic Party vice chairwoman, stepped down from her post after she was charged in July 2008. Diana Palmer, the county party's former first vice chairwoman, had accessory charges against her dismissed in District Court in January.

One of the couple's accusers, James Frederick Bethard, told police that Craig beat him and forced him into a dog cage, his arms and legs shackled. A female accuser said that Craig raped her. In court testimony, she said she also had consensually engaged in oral sex with Craig.

The News & Observer does not generally identify people who allege sex crimes.

Bethard said in court testimony that he and the female accuser were told that they would be killed if they left the house. But Vann said both had jobs and connections with family members outside Durham.

"They could have packed their bags and left months earlier," he said.

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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