Judge turns down Nuwaubian leader's
York's trial to begin Jan. 28 in Covington
Macon Telegraph/January 17, 2003
By Rob Peecher
Eatonton -- A Superior Court judge Thursday denied a series of
motions from Malachi York to again move the United Nuwaubian
Nation of Moors leader's trial, to postpone the trial and to allow
defense psychiatrists to interview the prosecution's witnesses.
York faces nearly 200 charges of molesting children.
Co-defendant Kathy Johnson - referred to by York's followers as
his "main wife" - is charged with 12 counts of molesting children.
Ocmulgee Circuit Superior Court Judge William A. Prior will
resume hearing motions this morning. The trial is scheduled to
begin Jan. 28 in Covington.
Among the motions denied Thursday by Prior was one to dismiss
Johnson from the case because the prosecution failed to hold her
trial within a set amount of time.
Johnson's attorney, Brian Steele, filed a demand for a speedy
trial Sept. 5 - in the June term of court - giving the prosecution
two terms of court in which to hold the trial. Steele argued that
because jurors in the June term were never dismissed by a judge's
order, the demand for speedy trial began running immediately, even
though there were only 10 days left in that term.
"Unless there's an order stating these jurors are excused and
dismissed, they are subject to recall," Steele said.
Putnam County Clerk of Court Sheila Layson testified that in
the June term of court, she had notified jurors through a
telephone recording that they did not need to show up for court,
but no judge had issued an order dismissing them.
District Attorney Fred Bright argued that the jurors were not
impaneled because Layson had notified them not to show up for
court because no more trials were scheduled. Layson testified that
a Superior Court judge had told her to notify the jurors not to
Steele's argument was impassioned, and he was adamant that he
was correct in his interpretation of the law.
"I understand the law," Steele told Prior. "I read every
statute that comes out. É It's my passion. I understand I look
strange saying acquit Mrs. Johnson based on a piece of paper that
I filed, but that is the law."
Steele said he would appeal Prior's decision.
Prior also took under advisement a motion to suppress evidence
seized from York's home in the village during a search on May 8.
Before Thursday's hearing got under way, Prior referred to the
defense motions as "York's motions." York then stood up and said,
"I am secured and do not give permission for anybody to use my
Though York's attorney said he had "no comment" on his client's
statement, York was referring to "common law" practices the
Nuwaubians have used in the past. Common law courts are not
legally binding and are typically associated with anti-government
militias in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest. In 1999, a common
law adherent, Everett Stout, advised Nuwaubians on how to deal
with problems the group was having over zoning and building
Prior took under advisement a motion from the defense to limit
the number of investigators allowed to sit at the prosecution's
table during the trial.
Manny Aurora, one of York's attorneys, argued the presence of
the law enforcement personnel would make witnesses feel
"intimidated and uncomfortable," but assistant district attorney
Dawn Baskin said the investigators are instrumental for the
prosecution in presenting its case.
Baskin is asking that Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills and
one of his detectives, an FBI agent and the DA's investigator be
allowed to stay in the courtroom, even though they all may be
called to testify.
The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors is a predominately black
group that refers to York as "the Master Teacher." It began as an
Islamic sect in the early 1970s in Brooklyn, N.Y., but when York
and his followers moved to Putnam County 10 years ago, the group
claimed York was an extra-terrestrial. The group built pyramids
and other ancient Egyptian-style structures on the 476-acre
village in western Putnam County, and for nearly six years has
been at odds with county officials over building and zoning
In May, authorities arrested York and raided the group's
village after several former members came forward with allegations
of child molestation.