Durham DA hopeful asks off sex case

Another one of Durham's sensational sexual assault cases could land in the state attorney general's office – just as the Duke lacrosse case did.

Durham District Attorney David Saacks has talked with the state's top prosecutor about taking over the cases against Joseph Scott Craig, 25, and Joy Suzanne Johnson, 30. The husband and wife are accused in rape, kidnapping and assault cases that include allegations of forced sex while channeling demons and caning and caging a man.

Johnson was third vice chairwoman of the Durham County Democratic Party when police arrested her in late June on charges that she aided and abetted her husband during the alleged rape, kidnapping and beating.

Tracey Cline, a Democrat who is running unopposed for the Durham District Attorney seat, has asked that the case be turned over to the attorney general if it has not been settled by Jan. 5, when she presumably would take office. During the Democratic primary races this spring, Cline was in contact with Johnson.

“I'm not sure how much,” Saacks said Friday, “but it was clearly enough that she thought she might have a conflict of interest on the case.”

The cases were assigned to assistant district attorney Jan Paul, who has offered several plea agreements that have been turned down by Craig and Johnson.

Defense lawyers have described the case as “consensual sadomasochism gone awry.”

On Friday, during the bond reduction hearing, Hudson questioned whether prosecutors would essentially put jurors in a position of deciding at what point sadomasochistic sex becomes too brutal. “Not that I know anything personally about sadomasochism, but isn't that inherent – that that's what the person wants?” Hudson said.

James Frederick Bethard, 19, of Maryland, accuses Craig of assault and kidnapping - forcing him into a dog cage with his arms and legs shackled, and beating him repeatedly with a cane.

The woman who has accused Craig of raping her testified this summer that she also engaged in consensual oral sex with the accused more than once. The News & Observer is not identifying the woman, in keeping with its general policy of not identifying people who allege sex crimes.

The accusers moved in with Craig and Johnson more than 10 months ago to study the occult.

Defense lawyers have described the woman as someone who used multiple names online and who took anti-depression medication.

Although each worked outside the home and had a cell phone and access to money, both stayed with the accused until late June, long after the incidents were alleged to have occurred.