Trial puts an end to York's 'regular
Macon Telegraph/January 24, 2004
By Wayne Crenshaw
The diminutive 16-year-old girl walked up to the witness stand
as the last person to testify in the main part of the government's
case against cult leader Malachi York.
Her name was well-known to jurors, since numerous other
witnesses had called her one of his favorite victims. In a soft,
matter-of-fact voice, she told her appalling story of years of
sexual abuse by York, starting when she was 5.
But her most compelling answer came after York's attorney,
Adrian Patrick, asked her about a particular time York was
allegedly molesting her and another girl.
"You're going to have to be a little more specific," the girl
said. "That sounds like a regular day."
Lead prosecutor Richard Moultrie made dramatic use of that
comment in his closing argument last week: He told members of the
jury they could put those "regular days" to an end forever by
The jury members apparently took Moultrie's passionate closing
argument to heart. They convicted York on nine of 10 counts of
racketeering and transporting children across state lines for
They also came back with a "yes" verdict on one of three counts
calling for forfeiture of York's interest in the 467-acre United
Nuwaubian Nation of Moors compound in Putnam County.
The three-week federal trial included 14 women, men and
teenagers telling the jury graphic tales of York's sexual appetite
for children, which included vaginal, oral and anal sex. Jurors
even saw a short, animated pornographic video seized during a
search of York's home on the compound.
A male victim testified that York showed him that video before
molesting him for the first time on his seventh birthday. He said
he remembered it because the video showed a devil character having
graphic sex with women.
"I'll never forget that," the witness testified. "It's burned
into my brain."
The trial began with U.S. Attorney Max Wood asking an FBI agent
to unseal a cardboard evidence box. The agent had testified that
the contents of the box had been seized at a "Jacuzzi room" near
York's home on the compound.
But the jury didn't know what was in the box until Wood pulled
out a 3-foot tall, stuffed Pink Panther.
The doll had male genitalia sewn onto it.
"Why would a grown man need a Pink Panther doll with a penis?"
Moultrie asked the jury in his closing argument.
The doll was mentioned only briefly by a couple of witnesses,
who identified it as a fixture in York's bedroom. But that sort of
evidence, Wood said, was a crucial part of the government's case.
"In this day and age, jurors want more than somebody saying
somebody did something," Wood said. "They want to see physical
The "he said/she said" aspect of many child-molestation cases
makes them difficult to prosecute. But the government faced a
peculiar hurdle in York's three-week trial: The defense put up
parents and siblings of some of the children who testified for the
government, and they called their own family members liars.
York, 58, brought his group to Putnam County in 1993. It began
in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1967, but changed frequently. It started as
a Muslim group, but York has also taught Christian and Jewish
theology. Followers have dressed as cowboys, American Indians and
claimed ties to ancient Egypt. York once wrote a book claiming he
was an alien from the planet Rizq.
Despite the fact that York had pleaded guilty to state and
federal charges almost exactly one year ago, he still has many
devoted followers. The defense called 42 witnesses, nearly all
Nuwaubians. Many were well spoken, educated and expressed absolute
confidence that York's accusers are liars.
"I truly and wholeheartedly believe it's a conspiracy," said
52-year-old Evelyn Rivera.
Some of York's followers have been harassing former members who
testified for the government, said Wood. Putnam County Sheriff
Howard Sills said an investigation is under way.
Nuwaubians have also been handing out common-law lawsuits
against Sills and others. "This has been an ordeal not just for me
personally, but for my staff and the community," Sills said.
The case is far from over. Patrick said the federal conviction
will be appealed and expressed confidence that there are several
legitimate grounds. Wood disputed that.
Patrick said York will withdraw his guilty plea to the state
charges and will take that case to trial.
But Sills seemed confident that the testimony of the defense
witnesses will fare no better in state court than in the federal
trial: "It's fairly apparent there was a lack of veracity on the
part of the cookie-cutter witnesses called by the defense."
In a news conference after the trial Friday, Sills said he
first looked into child-molestation allegations against York eight
years ago. He was asked why parents would side with York over
their own children.
"At one time I tried to figure out why people would follow
somebody blindly," he said. "Then I just investigated."