“He was taking away our childhood,” said the 18-year-old woman, who spoke in a soft but composed voice during three hours of testimony. Cross-examination will begin this morning.
The woman said she grew up with her mother and siblings, two of whom were York’s children, in his compound in Brooklyn, N.Y. She said she was 8 when he first made sexual advances toward her, first fondling her and later asking her to perform oral sex on him. On another occasion, she and a 5-year-old girl performed oral sex on York, the witness testified.
She said the abuse became repeated after he moved the group to a compound in Putnam County, where the group was known as the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.
York faces 13 federal counts of child molestation and racketeering. He also faces numerous state charges.
When she was about 15, the witness said, she began seeing the sexual activity as wrong and started trying to avoid York, particularly when he started showing an interest in a younger sister of one of her friends.
“He started talking about wanting to have sex with her and she was really little,” she said.
She finally left the compound when she was 16, and went to the FBI when she heard they were investigating York.
She described squalid living conditions for most of the youths in the compound, who were kept separate from their parents and allowed visits only on the weekends. Girls who had sex with York, she said, were given better treatment. In addition to visiting his upscale living quarters, they were taken out to restaurants for dinner, and York bought them clothes and jewelry, including diamond rings, according to the witness.
Most of the children, she said, also had little to eat. Their main diet included beans, rice and “flat bread,” which she described as flour mixed with water.
The witness said she was 9 when she came to Eatonton, which is when the sex with York began to include vaginal and anal intercourse.
“Two or three times a week we started having sex acts,” she said.
York would use baby oil during sex, she said, and U.S. Assistant Attorney Richard Moultrie displayed photos taken in two bedrooms of York’s home that showed bottles of baby oil on shelves near the beds. The photos were taken when federal and state authorities raided the Eatonton compound and his Athens home on May 8, 2002.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Adrian Patrick said the evidence would show that the allegations were coming from members of four families that had fallen out of favor with York and were out to get him.
“One of the primary witnesses ran the organization for many years and was ousted in February 2001 because she was out of control,” Patrick said.
He also blamed that witness for what prosecutors allege were attempts to illegally hide monetary transactions. Patrick said York filed tax returns every year and made no attempt to hide his financial dealings.
At least three of the government’s witnesses, he said, are testifying to avoid child molestation charges themselves.
The victim who testified Tuesday cited numerous occasions in which she and other girls her age, or younger, had sex together with York. She cited one instance in which York and his “main wife,” Kathy Johnson, took the witness and several other minor girls on a trip to Orlando. One of the girls performed oral sex on him in front of everyone while they were watching TV in a hotel room; another girl went into York’s bedroom and had sex with him, , the witness said.
Last January, York pleaded guilty to federal charges and to 77 state charges of molestation. The plea agreement would have sent York to prison for 15 years, but a federal judge rejected the sentence as too lenient.
York has not withdrawn his guilty plea to the state charges, though he has not been sentenced and could withdraw his plea before he is sentenced.
York and his followers moved from New York to Putnam County in 1993 to a 476-acre farm, where they erected numerous Egyptian-style structures, among them two pyramids and a sphinx. York has alternately claimed to be Muslim, Christian, American and from another planet.
His trial is expected to last about three weeks.