Burlco Jury Must Decide If It Was Rape - Or Consensual Kinky Sex

Posted: July 23, 1993

MOUNT HOLLY — For the engineer from Pennsylvania, the fall afternoon in 1987 was a last- wish marathon of kinky, but consensual, sex - a final pleasure before his planned suicide.

For the aerobics instructor from Marlton, it was a degrading episode of sodomy, shackles and near-suffocation.

After hearing more than a week of testimony, a Burlington County jury is to begin deliberations today in the case against Joseph Miller, 46, who is charged with kidnapping his former fiancee, handcuffing her and raping her, and then trying to smother her.

In two days of testimony that ended yesterday, Miller tried to counter the graphic testimony by the woman, who is 34. He portrayed himself as a victim, too, of sorts.

He told jurors that he had effectively been corrupted by the woman. He said she urged him to have sex with her on their first date in 1986 and initiated an intense period of sexual activity that grew to involve various forms of bondage.

He said he fell deeply in love with her, and supported her through her bulimia and psychotherapy. He said he allowed her and her teenage daughter to move into his home, only to be spurned by the woman six months later when she allegedly told him that her vows of love were false.

Without her love, Miller said, he would rather be dead. After the incident, Miller drove to a motel and swallowed a coma-inducing quanity of sleeping pills. Motel staff found him and alerted authorities.

Miller, of Bethlehem, is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in New Jersey for sexually assaulting a 9-year-old niece in 1988.

"Maybe these two people weren't playing with a full deck," defense attorney Jim Logan told the jury yesterday, ". . . but these people did (have deviant sex) together all the time. This was their type of activity."

Logan said that the woman fabricated a tale of rape in explaining her late return to work after a "luncheon date" grew into something more.

However, Jim Gerrow, deputy first assistant prosecutor, said the woman could not have sustained the deep bruises on her ankles, wrists and nose - or the cuts and scratches between her thighs - by spontaneously "thrashing" on the ground, as Miller said she did.

"He wanted more than anything to make love with her one more time," Gerrow told jurors. "When you decide you're taking the 'Big Out,' . . . what difference does it make if she wanted to do or didn't want to do it?"

Both Miller and the woman testified that he picked her up at a Medford shopping center on Oct. 27, 1987, and drove down Route 206, turning onto a dirt road in Shamong. In a nearby clearing, he had laid out bedsheets, a comforter and pillows.

A strand of nylon rope was tied to a tree, they said.

Gerrow pored over the case evidence in his closing remarks, methodically piling the pillows and rope and bedsheets and handcuffs on the floor by his table until pointing to Miller and remarking that all that remained was his presumption of innocence.

"You know what time it is? It's Miller time!" concluded Gerrow, borrowing a phrase from a beer commercial. "It's time to strip away that presumption of innocence."

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