Jon Sanders

In Durham, N.C., a leader in the local Democrat Party and her husband are facing multiple charges in what WTVD ABC 11 News called "a satanic ritual that got out of hand." Charges in the case include kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, and assault with a deadly weapon.

Now this is Durham, remember, where approximately one out of every 98 rape cases becomes news and several of those have turned out to be hoaxes. In other words, don't let the suspects be nifonged. Let the criminal justice system work as it should, without pot-banging activists demanding the accused's immediate neutering, Duke professors denouncing America (more), Nancy Grace getting her dander up (more), and all that rot.

That having been said, the report prompts the question of when, exactly, a satanic ritual gets out of hand. Most would probably say something along the lines of "When you called it 'satanic,' see, that's when." But for those who agreed to such a ritual, where would they draw the line?

A look at the allegations is in order at this point. The initial report on WTVD was that "Joy Johnson watched as her husband, Joseph Craig, beat and raped a female victim then kidnapped and beat another male victim with a wooden cane and a cable cord." Craig, 25, has been charged with second-degree rape, second-degree forcible sexual offense, three counts of second-degree kidnapping and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. His wife, Johnson, 30, faces charges of aiding and abetting. The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that arrest warrants "accuse Johnson of 'instigating and encouraging' her husband as he handcuffed a man and forced him 'into a dog cage, leaving him there for hours, terrorizing him.'"

According to reports, Craig is a dispatcher for a waste disposal service. Johnson was a third vice chairwoman of the Durham County Democratic Party and vice chairwoman of the Young Democrats (she has since resigned).

The first vice chairwoman (when does naming vice chairwomen get out of hand?), Diana Palmer, was later charged with one count of accessory after the fact. Her lawyer asserts that his client had no association with a satanic cult nor had any knowledge of a crime being committed. And this is still Durham.

Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.