BRUNSWICK — The jury deciding the case of cult leader Malachi York on Friday asked a judge to replace a juror who was the only holdout on the child molestation charges against the leader.
Six hours into their deliberations against York, the jury foreman sent a note to U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal explaining the situation.
York is accused of 13 federal county of child molestation and racketeering.
If the jury were unable to reach a verdict, the judge could consider options that include replacing the juror with an alternate or declaring a mistrial.
York is accused of transporting children from his Muslim commune in New York to Georgia so he could have sex with them. During the three-week trial, 14 girls and boys said York molested them from 1998 through 2002, when federal agents raided the compound.
Defense witnesses said York is a victim of a conspiracy headed by his son.
The woman juror was the dissenting vote on the six child molestation counts, the foreman wrote. She had told her fellow jurors that she did not want to make a mistake of finding an innocent man guilty, according to the jury foreman’s note, which was read in open court.
The note explained that the woman was “blind-sided” by the decision. The note also said the juror felt “the man is out to get him.”
The jurors asked that the woman be replaced with an alternate juror. Instead, Royal reread instructions to the jurors.
“You must also follow the law as I’ve explained to you, whether you agree with it or not,” the judge said.
The government claimed York recruited older girls to groom younger girls for sex with him, and that he used the cult for his own financial gain. Members of the group weren’t paid for their work — instead, York managed the money and decided who to reward and punish, prosecutors said.
“If they can’t get an unanimous verdict, it’s a hung jury,” said defense attorney Adrian Patrick outside the courtroom. “At least they’re thinking, they are fighting, that’s the jury process at its best.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.