Witness: Cult leader abused me at age 8
Atlanta Journal-Constitution/January 7, 2004
By Bill Torpy
Brunswick -- The slight, hesitant 19-year-old woman Tuesday
looked from the witness stand to an image of herself laughing and
wearing a party hat for her eighth birthday. Two months after the
photo was taken, the woman testified, she was taken to the home of
Nuwaubian cult leader Malachi York and shown pornography by an
"I was told that's what I'm supposed to do to York," she said.
For the next eight years, she testified, she performed
countless sexual acts on York, an ex-con who founded a religious
sect 35 years ago and, in 1993, moved with his followers to Middle
Georgia. The group, called the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors,
lived on a 440-acre property in Putnam County where they built
pyramids and obelisks. York has alternately claimed he was a god,
a Muslim imam, an alien and a Creek Indian.
York, 58, now faces trial in federal court on 13 charges of
racketeering and child molestation.
The 19-year-old witness, the first alleged victim to testify
against York, said she saw him have sex with at least 10 other
girls. She then named them, spelled their names, and recited their
ages when they performed the various sexual acts she said she
In his opening statement to jurors on Tuesday, defense attorney
Adrian Patrick denied the allegations and told jurors the
prosecution's case was based only on emotion. Patrick said York
should not be judged for his religious beliefs and lifestyle,
which he conceded were "different."
Patrick argued that the charges of molestation stem from
disgruntled former Nuwaubians. He said 60 children lived at the
Putnam County compound when York was arrested in May 2002, but
none brought forward allegations against York.
But prosecutors told jurors that York maintained a carefully
orchestrated system to sexually abuse children and recruit new
victims. York used children he was abusing to introduce younger
children -- sometimes their own siblings -- to him so he could
gain their confidence, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie
Thacker. The process included "a well-developed process of steps"
that began with "innocent rubbing" and proceeded to intercourse,
Isolation was used to reinforce that system, Thacker said.
Children were separated from their parents and housed in spartan
dwellings. But York lived in a comfortable home with television,
good food and other benefits and used them as rewards for having
sex, Thacker said.
The 19-year-old testifying recalled the first time York had sex
with her. "When he was finished, he gave me some candy," she said.
"I was crying."
The girl testified that she rarely saw her mother, who was a
Nuwaubian, and that she believed for years that York was her
father. She said she later grew to believe the whole system was
"He was taking away our childhood," she said. "We didn't get a
chance to be like other children."
The trial has been moved from Macon to the coastal city of
Brunswick because of extensive publicity. The judge has empaneled
an anonymous jury, apparently fearing York's followers would try
to disrupt the court.
The courtroom is closed to the public, other than credentialed
representatives of the news media, and dozens of law enforcement
agents, including an agent with a bomb-sniffing dog, patrol
outside the courthouse.
There have been no incidents.