A key government witness in the case of a leader of a quasi-religious sect convicted of child molestation and racketeering said she tried to recant her testimony because she felt sorry for him.
Attorneys for Malachi York, head of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, had sought a new trial because one of the witnesses had made sworn statements in contradiction to trial testimony that said she had not been molested by York.
But witness Habiybah Washington said on the witness stand on Friday that her trial testimony against York was true. During the trial, she said York molested her beginning when she was 13 and that York molested other children as well.
She said she later recanted her testimony because she felt sorry for York and that “everyone deserves a second chance, even when they do something wrong.”
York’s defense attorney Jonathan Marks told Judge Ashley Royal that because Washington stuck to her original testimony, he wanted to withdraw his motion for a new trial. But York instructed Marks to leave the motion in place.
Royal did not rule on the motion on Friday.
York was sentenced to 135 years in federal prison in April. His January conviction was based on the testimony of cult members who said he regularly molested children and manipulated the sect’s finances from 1998 to 2002, when federal agents raided their compound.