“There is a conspiracy in this case; [it's] the defense witnesses attempting to dissuade you and distract you,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Moultrie told jurors in the federal molestation and racketeering case against York.
Jurors deliberated about 3 1/2 hours Thursday afternoon before being asked to go to the hotel where they are sequestered. Deliberations will resume today.
Moultrie also countered claims that authorities went after York because of his group’s unusual beliefs. York founded the United Nation of Nuwaubian Moors in New York and in 1993 moved the quasi-religious organization to a farm in Middle Georgia, where the group built pyramids and were told a spaceship was coming to save the faithful.
“It is not the United States of America against the United Nation of Nuwaubian Moors,” Moultrie said. If convicted, the 58-year-old York could face up to 80 years in prison, prosecutors say.
Defense attorney Adrian Patrick argued that York’s son, Jacob, had a vendetta against his father and persuaded disgruntled former members to tell authorities that York molested them.
Patrick produced a chart — “The plot against Malachi York” — listing Jacob York and several of the alleged victims, whom Patrick called co-conspirators.
He noted that three women who testified that they groomed young victims for York’s sexual appetites had immunity deals from the government.
The defense displayed another list titled “What were they trying to hide?” It listed 10 alleged victims who were named in the indictment against York but were not called by prosecutors to testify. Six of them testified for the defense, saying York had never molested them but that they were pressured by investigators to say he did.
Patrick then displayed another list of the alleged victims. On that list were estimates by those witnesses of how many times per week they thought they had been molested.
The total of alleged molestations came out to nearly 12,000 between 1993 and 2002, when York was arrested.
The defense attorney then asked jurors if it was physically possible for a man between 48 and 56 years old to commit 120 molestations per month.
He produced photos of the alleged victims smiling and a videotape of several children dancing with York in a celebration on the organization’s land in Putnam County.
“This has to be the happiest set of child molestation victims in the country,” Patrick said.
Moultrie noted that York “was the only man dancing with all those girls.”
He urged jurors to “make a down payment” for the alleged victims “to get them to a place where they can put this horrible nightmare behind them. Give them closure and some sense of peace.”
Moultrie said many defense witnesses appeared to be scripted, while several of the 13 alleged victims who testified for the prosecution appeared to be reluctant.
He referred to a young man who testified that he was molested by York when he was a youth: “What kind of 24-year-old man would come into court and describe those kind of acts if they weren’t true?”
The alleged victims testifying ranged in age from mid-teens to nearly 30. Moultrie said there was a reason many didn’t come forward for years — “because your own mother might come into a courtroom and call you a liar,” as one did, “because the weight, power and influence of this organization might be brought to bear against you.”
About 50 of York’s followers packed a courtroom on another floor to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit TV, as they have throughout the trial.
The courthouse has been heavily guarded and the judge closed the courtroom to all but credentialed media to avoid possible interruptions from Nuwaubians, who protested, chanted and beat drums outside earlier court hearings but have been orderly and respectful during the current proceedings.
Four members of York’s group complained Thursday that they had been pushed around by a Putnam County deputy and have filed a complaint at the Brunswick police department.
John Carr said they were watching a TV news camera crew interview U.S. Attorney Maxwell Woods outside the courthouse when the deputy started pushing them and pulling them away.