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Judge throws book at cultist

135 years in prison ordered

Atlanta Journal-Constitution/April 22, 2004
By Bill Torpy

Macon - A federal judge sentenced Nuwaubian leader Dwight "Malachi" York on Thursday to 135 years in prison for racketeering and child molestation convictions.

 

"Isn't that the statutory maximum?" one of York's lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal.

"The statutory maximum is life," Royal responded.

The 58-year-old York won't be eligible for early release until 2119. The courtroom exchange seemed a bit odd, but somehow fitting in light of a case that included faux Egyptian pyramids on Middle Georgia farmland, costumed followers beating drums outside court hearings and York's claims he was, alternately, an Indian chief, a rabbi and a being from another world.

York, who had been found guilty of molesting children over many years, chuckled upon hearing the sentence.

"I'll probably get life," York told the judge in a rambling statement before the sentence was announced. "It's convenient to you all to get a man like me off the streets."

The leader of the quasi-religious United Nation of Nuwaubian Moors, York claimed he was persecuted for being different. "This is not a molestation case, this is not a RICO case, this is a religious case," said York, whose followers have called him Dr. York, Isa Muhammad, Baba, the Master Teacher and the Savior. He spoke rapidly for several minutes and was asked twice by his attorneys to slow down.

"I can't say I'm surprised" by the sentence, said U.S. Attorney Maxwell Wood, who after the conviction in January estimated the sentence would be 20 to 30 years. York was convicted of four counts of racketeering and six child molestation-related charges.

In 2003, York pleaded guilty to state and federal charges and received concurrent 50-year sentences, to serve at least 15 years in prison. But a federal judge found the deal too lenient, and York wound up going to trial.

A separate case in Putnam County Superior Court remains to be resolved.

Federal prosecutors will hold a hearing today on seizing the 476-acre farm York's group bought near Eatonton in 1993. The organization also owns a mansion in Athens. Any money seized could go to victims or to investigation agencies.

During the trial, prosecutors described a culture where York was the unquestioned ruler and a godlike figure of an organization he founded in a crime-infested area in Brooklyn, N.Y., more than 30 years ago. He moved the group to Putnam County in 1993, building a series of pyramids, obelisks and statues.

About 25 followers sat quietly in the courtroom Thursday for the sentencing. Perhaps 15 more stood outside.

York mixed teachings from Christianity, Islam and Judaism with stories of extraterrestrial beings and ancient Egypt.

More than 200 followers lived on the land at one time, with children separated from their parents. Witnesses said they lived in dilapidated housing while York lived in relative opulence.

Fourteen witnesses - male and female - testified during the trial that York molested them. Some said the abuse started when they were as young as 5.

One witness during the trial looked up at an enlarged photo of herself laughing and wearing a party hat for her eighth birthday. Two months after that photo was taken, the woman testified, she was taken to York's home and shown pornography by an older girl. "I was told that's what I'm supposed to do to York," she said.

Putnam Sheriff Howard Sills, who started investigating York in 1997 after getting anonymous letters describing abuse, said, "It gives me great pleasure to know he'll miss the rest of his life and that I was a part of that."

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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