Leaflets contain information on case against Malachi York
The Macon Telegraph, Dec. 27, 2002
By Rob Peecher
COVINGTON – Though Malachi York’s trial was moved to Newton County because of pre-trial publicity, some of his followers are trying to get their view of the case to potential jurors before the trial.
Since Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge William A. Prior announced four weeks ago that he was moving the trial to Newton County, Nuwaubians have been handing out fliers and leaving tabloid newspapers on car windshields in downtown Covington and at area shopping centers.
The fliers contain information and opinions mostly about Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills and the case against York, the leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. York, who was arrested in May by the FBI, is charged in a 208-count state indictment with sexually abusing children.
District Attorney Fred Bright, who is prosecuting York and the woman referred to as his “main wife,” Kathy Johnson, said the flier and newspaper appear to be intended to sway potential jurors.
“We don’t like it, but there’s nothing we can do to prevent it,” Bright said. “It comes under the umbrella of their freedom of speech rights under the First Amendment.”
An eight-page tabloid newspaper – the Macon Messenger – being distributed in Newton County contains two stories. One story refers to Sills as “a John Gotti hiding behind a badge” and is a rehashing of the fliers Nuwaubians have handed out in Putnam County since 1998. It provides criminal histories of several current and former Putnam County officials and their relatives.
The newspaper also accuses Sills of being responsible for a murder – a claim the Nuwaubians made in 1998 when a sheriff’s office investigation determined a man had died as the result of a motorcycle wreck.
“Sheriff Howard Richard Sills is nothing more than a gangster pretending to be sheriff,” the newspaper states. “It’s a brilliant idea if you think about it. He’s just a John Gotti hiding behind a badge at the top of an organized crime ring in Putnam County and other surrounding counties.
“Let’s take a trip down memory lane. It’s not a coincidence that every time a Putnam County official is caught breaking the law, that Sheriff (John Gotti) Sills is right in the mix. He’s either the arresting officer himself or head of the investigation.”
The flier compares the prosecution’s case against York to a child sexual abuse case in California where the defendants were exonerated. The story was made into an HBO movie titled “Indictment.”
“Citizens of Newton County need to be made aware that this copy-cat prosecution has similarities that are so close and so identical to the McMartin Trials that it is terrifying knowing that human lives are at stake,” the flier states.
Sills said he has received numerous calls about the fliers from people who live in Newton County, Jasper County and Putnam County.
“They’re anonymous, of course, and slanderous,” Sills said. “It’s typical of the many thousands of anonymous, slanderous publications they’ve distributed about me for the last three or four years. I’m concerned about it because it slanders me on page after page. I wish I knew who was actually responsible for the content.”
Bright said the district attorney in Newton County faxed him a copy of the flier comparing the York case to the HBO movie.
“I can tell you I’ve never even seen that HBO movie and have no idea what they’re talking about. I’m prosecuting Malachi York, Kathy Johnson and the remaining three co-defendants based solely on the evidence produced as the result of the investigation,” Bright said.
Because of the fliers distributed in Putnam County for the past few years, Bright said it doesn’t surprise him that York’s followers are attempting to sway opinions through pamphlets. But he said he is not concerned about the fliers.
“I’ve got confidence in the jury system and look forward to producing our evidence in a court of law,” Bright said.
York and Johnson also face federal charges in a four-count indictment of transporting children across state lines for the purpose of sex.
Khadijah Merritt, Chandra Lampkin and Isytir Cole will be tried separately from York and Johnson, but defense demands for speedy trial require the trial to be held before March 17. York and Johnson are scheduled to go on trial at the end of January.
The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors is a mostly black fraternal organization that moved from New York to Putnam County in 1993. For the past five years the group has been at odds with county officials, mostly over building and zoning issues.