Attorney claims bias by judge in York case

Macon Telegraph/January 9, 2004
By Wayne Crenshaw

Fireworks erupted Friday in the federal child molestation trial of cult leader Malachi York when his defense attorney angrily accused the judge of bias for the prosecution and asked that he remove himself from the case.


U.S. District Court Judge Ashley Royal, however, said he would not step down.

Also Friday, a 16-year-old girl testified that York began having sex with her when she was 12 and that it didn't stop until he was arrested three years later.

Adrian Patrick, York's attorney, asked that Royal remove himself following a conference at the judge's bench. Patrick asked for the jury to be excused, then stood before the judge and accused him of making an improper suggestion to assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Moultrie.

"The court prompted the government to introduce evidence," Patrick told the judge in a raised voice.

The conference involved a medical report on a male witness who testified that York molested him repeatedly as a child. The report indicated that the witness originally denied being molested, but both the witness and FBI agent Joan Cronier said the report was wrong. Patrick said Royal prompted the prosecution to introduce another section of the report.

"The court is overstepping its bounds," Patrick said.

"I can present evidence," Royal responded. "I can question witnesses. You are incorrect in that."

Outside the courtroom, Middle District U.S. Attorney Max Wood called Patrick's demand "totally without merit."

Moultrie questioned the male witness about a section of the report that indicated he was getting the exam because of concerns of diseases related to the York case.

Five children were taken into protective custody when local and federal officers raided the Putnam County village where York and his followers lived in May 2002. According to authorities, four of five children tested positive for sexually transmitted diseases.

The 16-year-old girl who testified Friday was the youngest of the alleged victims to take the stand so far. Her brother, the first alleged male victim to testify, took the witness stand Thursday.

The girl admitted that she at one time denied being molested. Patrick pointed out that in her original interview, when investigators asked if she knew why she was being interviewed, she responded, "Because of the lies they have been saying about Mr. York."

She said she gave that statement because she was scared and had been warned not to talk about sexual activity with York. She recanted several months later.

Her testimony was followed by that of an 18-year-old male, the younger brother of the first two alleged female victims to testify. He was the witness on the stand when Patrick asked Royal to recuse himself. The witness said York began to behave sexually toward him when he was 7, and molestations continued for years afterward. He left York's Putnam County compound in 2001 with his mother and sisters, he said, when his mother found out about sexual activity between her children and York.

He admitted to a meeting with his father, York defense attorney Manny Aurora and a defense investigator during which he denied being molested. He said he did so because he feared his mother could face charges if the allegations came out.

In all, five people took the witness stand this week and said York molested them repeatedly. They all said the molestations began at a young age, gradually evolved to intercourse, continued regularly for a number of years and often involved other children and adults.

But with most of the witnesses, Patrick pointed out inconsistencies between their testimony and previous statements. After court Friday, Patrick said the inconsistencies are significant to the defense.

"I think the way it was set up, the defendant was going to come into court and get slaughtered," he said. "It seems as if the witnesses are changing their stories. I see substantial inconsistencies."

Wood, however, said he was pleased with the first week of testimony.

"It's not unusual in child molestation cases to have inconsistent evidence because you are dealing with children," he said. "We'll have more than the victims' testimony."

Two witnesses have identified what they described as a sex toy, a stuffed Pink Panther with male genitalia sewed on it. An FBI agent testified earlier that the item was found in York's bedroom.

York, 58, is facing 13 counts of child molestation and racketeering. He is head of the United Nuwabian Nation of Moors, a quasi-religious sect which moved to a 467-acre neo-Egyptian compound in Putnam County in 1993.

The group has changed form several times from its beginnings as a Muslim group in Brooklyn, N.Y. The group dressed as cowboys when it moved to Putnam County, and has most recently dressed as American Indians, claiming to be an Indian tribe and York a chief. He has also claimed to be an angel and alien from the planet "Rizq."

The trial will resume Monday, and prosecutors expect to finish their case by Thursday or Friday. Patrick said the defense will call witnesses to refute not only the molestation allegations, but also the testimony of the alleged victims about squalid living conditions on the compound.







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