Recanted testimony prompts delay
Nuwaubian restitution hearing
Athens Banner-Herald/April 29, 2004
Macon -- A key government witness in a cult leader's sexual
abuse and racketeering case has recanted her testimony, but a
judge told her Friday she will have to wait to tell her story.
Malachi York, head of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, was
sentenced to 135 years in federal prison largely because of the
testimony of cult members who said York, 58, regularly molested
children and manipulated the sect's finances.
U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal postponed a Friday
restitution hearing because, he said, he wanted to research
whether Habiba Washington can take the stand during the hearing to
recant her testimony. The U.S. Attorney's Office, which prosecuted
the case, doesn't believe Washington's testimony is pertinent to
''If Habiba Washington has now recanted, it is irrelevant to
what we are doing today,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard
York, who also forfeited property in Eatonton and Athens as
part of his sentence, is not eligible for release until 2139.
York's attorney, Jonathan Marks, said Washington was one of
three prosecution witnesses who now say they were not molested by
York. Before the Friday hearing, York supporters sent videotapes
to several media outlets showing Washington recanting her
U.S. Attorney Maxwell Wood said he had not seen the tape.
''He's playing to the media,'' Wood said. ''The fact that they
gave a videotape to the media but not us should say something.''
After Royal said he was postponing the case, York accused the
judge of ''holding a person down.'' Royal did not say when the
hearing would be rescheduled.
The prosecution's only witness Friday, Dr. Richard Laurence
Elliott, a professor at Mercer University, said he surveyed 22
victims, and four of them said they had not been abused.
Most, though, claimed they were abused by York and others, he
said. Among them, a 17-year-old who had been molested at age 12.