Jury Picked in Ga. Cult Leader's Trial

Associated Press/January 5, 2004

Brunswick, Ga. -- A jury was picked Monday to hear the case of the leader of a quasi-religious cult accused of molesting young followers.


Trial begins Tuesday for Dwight "Malachi" York of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a mostly black sect whose neo-Egyptian compound on a Georgia farm includes pyramid-like structures.

York, also known to followers as "Chief Black Thunderbird Eagle," faces 13 federal counts of molestation and racketeering. He had reached a plea bargain that would have given him 15 years in federal prison and 14 years in state prison, but a judge rejected it.

Hundreds of his supporters have demonstrated at previous hearings, dressed in American Indian garb and beating drums, but only about 10 family members appeared at the courthouse Monday.

The trial was moved 225 miles from Macon to Brunswick because of pretrial publicity, including months of protests by followers dressed as Egyptian pharaohs, mummies and birds.

Authorities have worried that Nuwaubian supporters could disrupt the trial by intimidating jurors and handing out anti-government literature.

U.S. District Court Judge Ashley Royal has closed the proceedings to all but the media and those involved in the case. He also banned protests outside the courtroom.

York has unsuccessfully argued he has American Indian heritage and should not be judged by the U.S. court system. Prosecutors have said they plan to make a case that York used his status as a religious leader for sex and money, enriching himself, marrying several women and abusing young boys and girls who were part of his sect.

York has maintained he's being unfairly prosecuted because of a vendetta by small-town authorities who dislike the sect's members.
















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