The Hunting of Dr. Craft | The Nation


The Hunting of Dr. Craft

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Always known for his extraordinary generosity, Craft also befriended patients and their families outside the office, bestowing food, clothing, free childcare, even financial assistance--all considered patently unethical by the American Psychological Association. Craft began hanging out for hours at a time in the house of the Olivers,a family with six kids, four of whom he had treated. He took them and the parents camping in the Smoky Mountains, where he would follow the children around with video and still cameras.

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Judy Jackson
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Some of the older Oliver boys would occasionally grab Craft's equipment and horse around by taking pictures of each other unclothed. Craft says he joined in the silliness. The parents knew that among the hundreds of images shot, an occasional one depicted nudity or urination. But nobody was concerned. "Bruce was like a grandfather or an uncle," one of the kids said recently. "It was like having your dad take pictures of you." And Craft helped the family of Clint,another former patient, an attention-demanding, hyperactive 9-year-old, by taking him into his home on weekends after the family moved from Augusta to nearby Atlanta. Clint's parents were grateful for the help but later said they had no idea how many pictures were being taken or that any contained nudity.

None of these lapses in judgment created problems, though, until Craft sent a roll of film to a photo lab at a military PX just across the Georgia state line in South Carolina. On the roll were several pictures of Gregory,a 3-year-old boy stabbing at his erect penis with a plastic bowie knife (a common play therapy toy for children to express aggression with). Gregory was in temporary foster care with the Oliver family, who suspected he'd been sexually abused in his regular home. Craft had begun treating him, the Oliver parents recall today, after he attacked the other children, slashed his bedding with knives and threatened to cut off his penis.

Disturbed by the pictures, a lab employee contacted the FBI. A year later, in late 1996, Special Agent Keith Owens visited Craft's office. Craft told Owens there was no clinical purpose for having taken the photos. He'd snapped the knife shots because Gregory's sudden behavior evoked "morbid fascination" and either "amazed" (his version of the word) or "amused" him (the FBI's). He was adamant he'd never gotten sexual gratification from taking such pictures. But he acknowledged they were "inappropriate" and that his colleagues would "never understand" why he'd taken them. Owens's interpretation of these statements was that Craft was a pedophile. He did not pursue the possibility that what the doctor might actually have meant was that photographing children during therapy violated the ethics of his profession.

Today Craft says he assumed there'd been a simple misunderstanding, and that Owens would contact the Oliver parents about Gregory's problems. But Owens waited weeks to question the Olivers. Meanwhile, he quickly obtained search warrants for Craft's office and home, and law-enforcement personnel spent months picking through thousands upon thousands of Craft's photos, slides and videotapes of mountains, trees, adults, kids and more trees. But it was the pictures of children that interested investigators: kids in Halloween costumes, kids at karate competitions and soccer matches, kids hugging each other. And, of course, kids like the Crafts' toddler niece and nephew, playing partially clothed; 9-year-old Clint, mooning in one shot and grinning on the potty in another; and those therapy patients playing with legs splayed and glimpses of genitalia exposed. The authorities claimed that Craft was sexually aroused by about 100 of the images.

Elevating personal concerns over professional responsibilities during work, socializing with patients, violating their privacy by taking pictures without informed consent--all are potential reasons to revoke a therapist's license (which the Georgia Board of Examiners did to Craft). But none have anything in particular to do with sexual deviancy. Nevertheless, Danny Craig, the district attorney for the county encompassing Augusta, had decided that Craft was--as he would later put it publicly--"one of the most prolific, one of the most dangerous child molesters" in the nation.

Such attitudes terrified Craft, as did DA Craig's avowal to charge Kay as a co-conspirator and seize their home under criminal forfeiture laws if he were convicted. The local radio talk show excoriated him as a fiend; the daily paper denounced a magistrate for providing him bail.

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