Lawyer: Activity ‘maybe went too far'

The lawyer for one of three people charged in a North Carolina rape and kidnapping case that prosecutors have said included satanic ritual said it appears to involve “consensual activity that maybe went too far.”

Authorities have charged three people, including two ranking members of the Durham County Democratic Party, in the case they said involved a beating and a rape. Police have released few details and prosecutors have declined to elaborate on a comment made in court earlier this week that the case involved satanic ritual.

But the attorney for Joseph Scott Craig, 25, has questioned whether authorities misunderstood what was taking place inside his client's home.

“It sure seems to look like sadomasochism or some kind of consensual activity that maybe went too far,” defense attorney Woody Vann told The News & Observer of Raleigh. “While it may not be normal activity for our everyday population, that doesn't mean it's criminal.”

Craig faces three counts of second-degree kidnapping, one count of second-degree rape, one count of second degree forcible sex offense and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. His wife, Joy Johnson, 30, the county party's third vice chairwoman, faces several counts of felony aiding and abetting.

Authorities allege that Craig beat a man and a woman, raped the woman and that Johnson watched as he did so. Court documents filed this week accuse Johnson of “instigating and encouraging” her husband as he handcuffed the man and forced him “into a dog cage, leaving him there for hours, terrorizing him.”

The documents said the incidents occurred in December 2007 and in January and May.

Also charged with one count of accessory after the fact is Diana Palmer, 44, the county party's first vice chairwoman. WRAL-TV reported her attorney said during a first-appearance hearing Thursday that she denies having any involvement with Craig and Johnson.

“The alleged victims of this crime have told the Durham Police Department that my client was not present, nor did she have anything to do with this. We intend to fight these charges vigorously,” said defense attorney Bill Thomas.

Johnson has resigned from her position with the party. Palmer has not; state party officials said they are waiting for more information.

If the case “proceeds to trial, we may seek to remove Ms. Palmer from the state executive committee if she does not voluntarily resign,” state party spokeswoman Kerra Bolton told The Herald-Sun of Durham.