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Judge prohibits courthouse demonstrations during molestation trial

The Associated Press, USA
Jan. 1, 2004 • Thursday January 1, 2004

Supporters of cult leader Malachi York wont be allowed to demonstrate outside the courthouse during his child molestation trial next week, a federal judge has ruled.

Members of his sect, known as Nuwaubians, also wont be permitted inside the courtroom during the trial, said U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal on Tuesday. The courtroom will be closed to spectators except the media, but anyone may watch it on closed-circuit TV set up on a separate floor of the courthouse.

I think that satisfies any public trial requirements, Royal said.

York is charged with 13 federal counts of child molestation and racketeering. His trial starts Monday in Brunswick, where it was moved from middle Georgia due to pretrial publicity.

Both the prosecution and the defense protested the Tuesday ruling. Government attorneys objected to having a partially open courtroom and a TV feed. Defense lawyers said TV wouldnt be adequate and the public should be allowed inside the courtroom.

Yorks supporters usually attend his court hearings. About 200 Nuwaubians protested outside the courthouse Tuesday, wearing Indian garb, banging drums and chanting Keep the trial open.

At the end of the hearing, bailiffs handed out copies of a document to Nuwaubians citing laws that ban demonstrations near a courthouse where a jury trial is being held if those demonstrations are intended to influence a jury.

The ruling to keep the public out of the courtroom follows a Christmas parade in Brunswick where the Nuwaubians handed out flyers and asked spectators about the guilt or innocence of York.

Yorks attorney, Adrian Patrick, said the trial should be kept open because its possible someone other than the Nuwaubians may have distributed the flyers.

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Dr. York had any direct involvement whatsoever in passing out flyers, Patrick said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia couldnt object to Royals ruling without seeing the exact nature of the Nuwaubians demonstration, said the groups executive director, Debbie Seagraves.

There is a balance that has to be struck between the free speech rights and the protesters and the judges duty to ensure a fair proceeding for the defendant, Seagraves said. I dont know the goal of the protesters, but if their goal is to influence the jury, the judge could be within his rights.

Also Tuesday, York fired four of his attorneys, leaving only Patrick to represent him.

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