ATLANTA — Attorneys for jailed religious sect leader Dwight “Malachi” York on Thursday called his federal conviction on child sex charges flawed, as more than 100 members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors proclaimed the group strong, even with its leader in prison.
York’s attorneys filed an appeal with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The brief says the prosecution improperly applied federal racketeering laws, the judge erred on defense motion rulings and the grand jury was tainted by pretrial publicity, York’s attorney, Adrian Patrick of Athens, said Thursday.
The brief also says York’s own trial lawyers jeopardized his appeal by withdrawing a crucial motion.
York was sentenced to 135 years in federal prison in April for molesting 14 boys and girls whose parents were members of his group.
“We are still affirming that Dr. York is innocent of these charges,” Patrick said at a news conference outside the state Capitol.
Patrick was fired as York’s attorney after his conviction but was rehired for the appeal.
York recently referred to himself as “Baba” in a letter to supporters from a special housing unit of the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan. In the Oct. 30 message, York said he has received visitors from another planet while in prison and was moved by prison officials because he was converting other inmates and levitating in the air.
He also said In the letter that visitors named Crlll, Alomar and Saad visited him from “Zeta Reticuli” and healed him.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Maxwell Wood, who headed the prosecution during the three-week trial in Brunswick, said Wood would have no comment on the appeal, noting that the government has until Dec. 13 to file its response.
“For sale” signs stand on the 476-acre, Putnam County compound where as many as 500 Nuwaubians five years ago lived in pyramid-style structures. The property was seized by the federal government.
Thursday, members said their group is going strong.
“They said the Nuwaubian nation is dead and they hoped we would dwindle away,” said Hattie McKenny, of Athens, who led the group in a religious recital before the conference began. “From what I see, we are setting that straight today.”
In the past, members have appeared publicly dressed as cowboys and in other unusual garb as they practiced York’s malleable religion — which incorporates Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Egyptian mysticism and has even included talk of space aliens.
McKenney called the group “very solid, very strong,” before referring other questions to Patrick.
Officials in rural Putnam County say they’ve seen few signs of the group since York’s conviction.
Sheriff Howard Sills said he’s had no contact with about 20 Nuwaubians who own homes in the county. He said the crowd at Thursday’s press conference suggests the group is growing smaller.