Associated Press, Nov. 26, 2002
MILLEDGEVILLE — A judge set a bond of $75,000 on Tuesday for one of four women facing child molestation charges along with Nuwaubian leader and former Athens resident Malachi York, and also set a tentative trial date for all the defendants.
Superior Court Judge William A. Prior heard motions at a hearing Tuesday and set a date of Jan. 13 for the next hearing in the case. He also set a tentative date of Jan. 27 for the start of the trial, which he said would be held in either Covington or Griffin.
The judge said he would choose between the two cities next week.
York, who was arrested May 8, has been indicted on 120 counts of child molestation, 50 counts of aggravated child molestation, 13 counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes, one count of rape, two counts of influencing a witness, two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and nine counts of statutory rape.
York and the other defendants — Kathy Johnson, Chandra Lampkin, Khadijah Merritt and Isityr Cole — appeared with their lawyers Tuesday to file motions. The judge set a $75,000 bond for Johnson. Cole is the only defendant who is now free on bond.
In one motion, the defense challenged the indictment, saying the four-year statute of limitations had expired because officials received information related to the case as early as 1997.
Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin disagreed. She said the first name came forward in late 1999. ”It wasn’t until early 2001 that the first witness was interviewed and we first started to get identification,” Baskin said.
Attorneys for each of the women asked for separate trials, saying they would object to anything presented at a joint trial that did not involve their clients.
Stephen Bradley, assistant district attorney, said the state would do everything it could to present a clear case. But, he said, ”The 13 victims will testify about the majority of the defendants. It would be impossible without talking about one to discuss another.”
The judge took the statute of limitations motion and separate trials motion under advisement.
The trial must be held before the third Monday in March because some of the defendants have filed motions for a speedy trial.
York and Kathy Johnson, the woman described by York’s followers as his ”main wife,” also face a four-count federal indictment accusing them of taking children across state lines for the purpose of having sex with them.
York, along with the other sect members, initially faced 121 counts on seven molestation-related charges involving four victims. But a Putnam County grand jury re-indicted him in October and he now faces 208 counts, with the number of victims expanded to 13, involving boys and girls ranging in ages from 4 to 14.
District Attorney Fred Bright took the case back to the grand jury after eight more victims came forward with allegations of child molestation following his arrest in May.
In 1993, York, 57, along with 100 or so of his followers in the quasi-religious sect, the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., to a 400-acre rural property in Putnam County.
An investigation began after police received anonymous tips that York was molesting children in the group.
York’s ties to Athens are not insignificant. In the last several years the Nuwaubians, wearing Egyptian-style garb, have participated in Athens parades and other festival-type events. York purchased a mansion on Mansfield Court where he ran a mail-order business before he was ordered to stop because of zoning violations.
York also owns a building at the corner of West Broad and South Church streets designed to be a bookstore, though a time of completion on the two-year project isn’t clear. He also owns the All Eyes on Egypt store near Georgia Square Mall.