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Judge removes himself from York case • Thursday July 24, 2003

Nuwaubian leader on trial
AP, July 22, 2003

MACON – U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson has removed himself from the case of the leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a quasi-religious group based at Eatonton in middle Georgia.

Dwight ”Malachi” York, 58, pleaded guilty in January in a plea agreement to taking children across state lines for the purpose of having sex with them and to evading federal financial reporting requirements. He agreed to a 15-year prison sentence.

In May, Lawson met with attorneys in the case to tell them he was planning to deny their plea agreement because it didn’t call for enough prison time for York. The following month, the judge did reject the plea.

A trial was scheduled to begin Aug. 4.

Defense lawyer Ed Garland asked Lawson to step down, saying the judge had inadvertently involved himself in plea negotiations. He said that affected York’s ability to make decisions about his case.

In an order filed late Friday, Lawson recused himself. The U.S. district clerk of courts office will appoint a new judge. U.S. Attorney Max Wood said he did not know how long that would take.

Manubir Arora, another defense attorney, said the defense will ask the new judge to accept the plea with the 15-year sentence. Wood declined to comment on whether the government would oppose the guilty plea.

The Nuwaubians, who are based on a 400-acre farm in Putnam County, began as an Islamic sect in the early 1970s in Brooklyn, N.Y. When York and his followers moved to Putnam County 10 years ago, the group claimed York was an extraterrestrial. York bought a house off Timothy Road in Athens in 1998, and also a storefront on West Broad Street, for an intended Nuwaubian lodge and bookstore.

At various times, the Nuwaubians have claimed to be Egyptians, American Indians and connected to various religious groups, including Christians, Jews and Muslims.

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