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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 older girl.

 

"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 witnessed.

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, she said.

 

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 wrong.

"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.

 
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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