Monday, June 19, 2006 ATHENS, Ga. – In March, Clarke County’s chief jailer Brett Hart got a letter from a federal prison.
It said an Athen’s sheriff’s deputy was writing to one of the inmates, convicted child molester Dwight “Malachi” York, a spiritual leader the deputy affectionately calls “Baba” and “Pops,” according to documents obtained by the Athens Banner-Herald.
Mr. Hart opened an internal investigation into how Clarke County deputies were trying to recruit prisoners at the jail into the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a religious sect with black supremacist overtones headed by Mr. York.
A month later, Mr. Hart was abruptly fired.
Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards gives only vague explanations why he fired the highly-regarded jailer; Mr. Hart, pondering a lawsuit, won’t speculate.
But Mr. Hart’s attorney sees only one possibility: Mr. Hart continued to press an investigation that his superiors didn’t seem interested in pursuing.
Documents obtained by the Banner-Herald include correspondence between Mr. Hart and federal prison officials, in addition to letters sent by a Clarke County sheriff’s deputy and others to Mr. York at the maximum security prison in Colorado where the sect leader is serving a 135-year sentence.
Nuwaubian literature – some approved and some banned by jail officials – had been circulating around the Clarke County facility for some time, according to deputies who work at the jail.
But it wasn’t until March 7, when the Special Investigative Supervisor’s Office of the Colorado prison notified Mr. Hart that prison officials had intercepted a letter from a Clarke County sheriff’s deputy to Mr. York, that the jail opened an internal investigation.
Though Mr. Hart contends the deputy violated jail policy by writing to a convicted felon, Sheriff Edwards said the matter was discussed with an attorney who determined no policies were violated, although the policy about corresponding with prison inmates is being looked at for possible revision.
Of the five letters to Mr. York the Banner-Herald obtained from a source who did not want to be identified, two were written by the same deputy. The others were from civilians who shared addresses with deputies.
“I am one of the ones that answered the call when you suggested that brothers join law enforcement agencies,” the deputy wrote. “I have been with the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office since April of 2001. Baba, the brothers are with you. We are organizing the Supreme Grand Lodge for your return to give us proper instruction.”
The deputy, who holds the rank of corporal, identifies himself to Mr. York as “one of your sons” and wrote about organizational efforts here and elsewhere.
“I went to Chicago recently and spoke with brothers interested in joining the brotherhood,” the deputy wrote. “We are doing our best to get a Lodge started here … Hopefully this will spiral into the entire community and we can squash the unnecessary beef amongst us. If you have a message for any of the brothers, I will directly relay it to them.”
In another letter, the deputy tells Mr. York about efforts to prove the sect leader’s innocence through the media and Internet.
“This will not only inform people of your innocence, but will save souls and unite the family under our doctrine of Wu-Nuwaubu. We support Africa because that is FIRST. We will put Baba in Africa!”
Mr. Hart said Sheriff Edwards hired six Nuwaubian deputies, four of whom were among a group of former Macon police officers and firefighters who quit in 2004 after the city wouldn’t investigate their claims that Mr. York was the victim of a conspiracy.
According to Chief Hart, one of the deputies was verbally reprimanded last year for violating the jail’s Code of Conduct by trying to distribute prohibited Nuwaubian literature to a maximum-security prisoner.
Jail policy forbids deputies from proselytizing any faith or beliefs to inmates or distributing religious literature that has not been approved by the jail’s chaplain.
Mr. Hart said some Nuwaubian literature was approved for distribution.
Despite the jail’s ban, a deputy told Mr. York in an April letter that he and fellow sect members were undeterred.
“I have still managed to propagate our doctrine to many of the inmates there,” the deputy wrote. “The administration at the jail really doesn’t want our books in the jail, but they can’t stop Pops. I have many scrolls circulating in the jail.”
Mr. Hart said the Nuwaubian deputies’ presence at the jail was disruptive, and not just because of their recruitment efforts.
“The Nuwaubians are a racial supremacist organization, and several white deputies were concerned if they found themselves defending against a black inmate, they wondered which side the Nuwaubian deputies would be on in a conflict between black and white,” Mr. Hart said.
Sheriff Edwards said his decision to fire Mr. Hart had nothing to do with Mr. Hart pressing forward with the investigation into Nuwaubian activities at the jail.