Lawyers argue details in York case

The Macon Telegraph, Jan. 18, 2003
By Rob Peecher

EATONTON – With just more than a week to go before Nuwaubian sect leader Malachi York stands trial for sexually abusing 13 children, a Superior Court judge is still considering one issue key to the prosecution.

The judge said he will rule next week on whether to allow evidence seized from York’s home shortly after his arrest last May.

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York, who was scheduled to be tried with co-defendant Kathy Johnson, may stand trial alone. Before Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge William A. Prior began hearing final pre-trial motions Friday, Johnson’s attorney Brian Steele announced his intention to appeal one of Prior’s Thursday rulings.

Steele had filed a motion asking the judge to set Johnson free because, he argued, the prosecution’s time to get her to trial under his speedy trial demand had expired. Prior, though, ruled that the speedy trial demand gives the prosecution until March 17 to try her.

Steele said he will appeal the ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which effectively takes Johnson out of Prior’s jurisdiction until the appellate court issues a ruling.

Unless that ruling comes before the trial begins Jan. 28, York will stand trial alone.

York is the head of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a predominately black fraternal organization that moved to Putnam County a decade ago. Last year, federal and local officers raided the group’s 476-acre Putnam County village to serve state and federal search warrants.

Just before the raid, York was arrested in Milledgeville and taken into federal custody. He faces four federal counts of allegedly transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of having sex with them. He faces 197 counts in a state indictment accusing him of sexually abusing children. The children are all former members of his group.

Johnson and three other women were indicted with York on the state charges – each woman facing significantly fewer charges than York. Prior agreed last month to sever the other three women as co-defendants, requiring the state to try them separately, but he denied a similar motion from Johnson.

As the hearing Friday was nearing an end, York – who wore a red fez with a black tassle – stood up and repeated a statement he made Thursday in court that he is “secured” and does not give permission to use his name.

“If you proceed it will cost you $500,000,” York said.

He also said “all deals are off” if Prior continues to use his name.

Though York’s attorney Ed Garland said he had nothing to say regarding York’s statement, York was referring to “common law” practices the Nuwaubians have used in the past. Common law courts are not legally binding and are typically associated with anti-government militias in the Midwest.

During the hearing, Nuwaubians gave members of the media a “copyright notice” that purports to provide notice that York has copyrighted his name and aliases and the document threatens certain financial penalties for “unauthorized” use of his name. The documents were stamped: “Received, Jan. 08, 2003” by the “Clerk of Federal Moorish Cherokee Consular Court, USA.”

Also Friday, Prior denied bond for York, even though a former elementary school principal and two Macon police officers testified on his behalf.

Prior also said he will allow the prosecution to use testimony regarding the child molestation, which amounts to 64 similar transactions. According to assistant district attorney Dawn Baskin, this testimony will come from adults who say they were sexually abused by York while they were children, people who “solicited” sex from children and adults on York’s behalf, and from adults who participated in group sex acts with York similar to group sex acts the prosecution alleges York participated in with children.

York’s attorney Manny Aurora said that with 197 counts against his client, the prosecution didn’t need 64 more.

“They’ve got 197 counts – let’s fight over those,” Aurora said.

Prior also said he would allow the defense to put up York’s followers as witnesses who can testify that they lived at the village and were not molested. Baskin argued against it, but Aurora said the prosecution only wants to “let in all the bad stuff.”

“That’s our whole defense,” Aurora said.

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