BRUNSWICK – Throughout the trial of Malachi York, jurors have heard the name of one alleged victim more than any other. On Wednesday, they finally saw the tender-voiced 16-year-old, who told them York molested her repeatedly for years beginning when she was 5.
The sexual abuse stopped, she said, when she was about 13 and began rebelling. She left the cult’s compound with her sister and mother after York started showing a sexual interest in her 12-year-old sister.
“I was upset because I always said he could do whatever with me, but he’s not going to touch my sister,” she said.
The girl’s mother had testified Tuesday that York threatened to kill her daughter if she went to the authorities with allegations of sexual abuse. The girl also said York threatened her life, saying he would throw her body “behind the deer pen,” a fenced area on York’s 467-acre Putnam County compound that was formerly a hunting preserve.
Following her testimony, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Moultrie announced the government was finished with its case except for one, brief witness who was not available Wednesday. The witness will testify this morning.
Defense attorney Adrian Patrick said he expects to finish the defense case by Tuesday.
The 16-year-old witness Wednesday also said that while she was staying at York’s compound for the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, her mother was staying with York in Athens in what followers called “the mansion.” Both testified that he cut off contact between the two and tried to drive them apart.
“He said my mother hated me and she didn’t want to be my mother anymore,” she said, choking back tears.
Cheryl Collins, a psychiatrist who treated the girl at National Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., said the girl had post-traumatic stress disorder, which Collins said often occurs as a result of child abuse. She said the girl had nightmares, behavioral problems and showed signs of depression during her stay at the hospital. She also said the girl spoke about the abuse in a “detached monotone” and a “flat effect,” which Collins said is a common coping mechanism for child abuse victims.
For the second time in the trial, Patrick accused U.S. District Court Judge Ashley Royal of helping the prosecution and asked that Royal remove himself from the case. Prior to the girl’s testimony, Royal called attorneys from both sides to the bench. After a conference, Patrick stated in open court that Royal had told him not to ask the girl about her mother’s testimony that the girl had a problem with lying. Patrick said the judge should not have made that ruling without the prosecution requesting it.
“The court is clearly acting defacto as a prosecutor,” he said.
Royal declined to step down.
“I’m surprised you don’t understand the role a judge has in a trial,” he said. “You simply don’t understand basic rules of evidence.”
Royal later cited a rule that a judge has a duty to protect witnesses from “unnecessary embarrassment.”
The girl testified that when she was 5, she and her 8-year-old best friend performed oral sex on York. Her friend, now 18, was the first alleged victim to testify in the trial and described the same alleged incident.
Both girls also said the sex went on repeatedly for years, and happened at least three or four times per week. They said the sex included oral, vaginal and anal sex.
She and her friend would often be on the playground, she said, and York would send Kathy Johnson, who followers called his “main wife,” or other older girls to get them. When he was finished with them, she said, he would give them candy and send them back to the girls’ quarters.
On Tuesday, a 15-year-old boy the prosecution considers one of York’s victims testified that York never molested him. The girl, along with previous witnesses, identified the boy as one of the children they saw York molesting.
York, 58, is facing 13 counts of racketeering and transporting children across state lines for sexual purposes.
In all, 12 former cult members have testified that York molested them as children. Some testified that they were involved in recruiting younger children for York.
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 to Putnam County in 1993, where they erected numerous Egyptian-style structures, among them two pyramids and a sphinx. York has alternately claimed to be Muslim, Christian, American Indian and from another planet.