ATLANTA (AP) – The leader of a quasi-religious sect was sentenced Thursday to 135 years in prison for molesting boys and girls at the group’s ancient Egyptian-style compound.
He was convicted in January of child molestation and racketeering after a trial in which 14 boys and girls from the sect said York molested them from 1998 to 2002. He was sentenced in Macon by U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal.
“We’re very pleased with the sentence,” U.S. Attorney Max Wood said.
The sect was founded as a Muslim commune in New York and moved to Eatonton in 1993, where York set himself up as a messiah figure.
Prosecutors said he recruited older girls to groom younger girls for sex with him.
If girls pleased York, they got prizes such as diamond rings from Wal-Mart or trips to a restaurant, witnesses testified. If they angered him, their food was rationed and they had to fill out forms for necessities such as sanitary napkins and doctor’s visits.
Members of the group were not paid for their work – instead, York managed the money and decided who would be rewarded and who would be punished, prosecutors said.
York’s attorney, Adrian Patrick, had argued that York was framed by his own son for refusing to fund the son’s musical career. The defense had also argued that the government was out to get the mostly black sect because its beliefs were outside the mainstream.
York incorporated Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Egyptian mysticism and space aliens into his teachings.
Earlier this month, Kathy Johnson, York’s “main wife,” was placed on 18 years of probation for child molestation.