Local News

Judge lowers bond for woman charged in alleged cult abuse

Posted July 17, 2008 4:05 p.m. EDT
Updated July 17, 2008 6:25 p.m. EDT

— A judge agreed on Thursday to reduce the bond for a woman charged in a case of alleged cult abuse after her lawyer argued that she was traumatized in jail.

The secured bond for Joy Johnson, 30, was lowered from $220,000 to $75,000. Johnson faces two felony charges of aiding and abetting for allegedly helping helping her husband, Joseph Craig, 25, abuse a 44-year-old woman and 19-year-old man.

Curran argued on Tuesday that Johnson suffers from health problems and has been traumatized by being in jail. Johnson has been held in the Durham County Jail since her arrest in June.

Assistant Durham District Attorney Jan Paul, however, said that a new bond hearing for Johnson was unnecessary, because one was held Monday, July 14.

Curran said on Thursday that she did not have enough time to properly argue for her client in the earlier hearing, which included two hours of testimony from the victims. Curran claimed that she was only notified of the hearing a half-an-hour before it took place.

At a hearing on July 7, a Durham County judge lowered Johnson's bond from $270,000 to $220,000.

Johnson and Craig were arrested after a man and a woman reported to police that they had been beaten, shackled to beds, kept in dog cages and starved.

Woody Vann, Craig's attorney, has argued that the victims were not held against their will and could have left at any time and that if the alleged abuse occurred, they were consensual acts. Both victims had jobs and access to cell phones and vehicles, Vann said.The victims allegedly met Johnson and Craig through the Web site for Indigo Dawn Inc., a business that the couple operated.

According to the search warrant in the case, Johnson and Craig described themselves as teachers of the Order of the Morning Star. The male victim went to live with the couple in November 2007, the female victim a month later.

Court documents 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 female victim claimed Johnson held her hands down as Craig beat her with a cane. The female victim also reported being raped by Craig while Johnson watched.

All the alleged abuse occurred at a home on Albany Street in Durham. Investigators seized items including a computer, cell phone, digital camera, Web cam, brown rug, notepads, boxes of pictures and two black, studded straps.

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