Attorney claims bias by judge in York
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
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.
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
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
Wood, however, said he was pleased with the first week of
"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
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.