Lawsuits overshadow Nuwaubian leader
Augusta Chronicle/May 11, 2002
By Stephen Gurr
Eatonton, Ga. -- They called him "The Love Man," and his
followers hung on his words as prophecy. Dwight York, or Malachi
York-El, the spiritual figurehead of the United Nuwaubian Nation
of Moors, was more than just a cult leader from Brooklyn.
He was a self-professed teacher and philosopher, a man of many
faces and names. He dabbled in writing and music promotion and
fancied himself a sort of new-age Marvin Gaye with his female
singer-backed outfit, "Dr. York and She."
He threw Nuwaubian celebrations at Athens' Classic Center, and
thousands flocked to his Savior's Day rallies in Eatonton each
Now, Mr. York, 56, is in federal custody on child sex charges,
suspected of molesting girls as young as 11 at his rural Putnam
County compound. His followers, more than 100 in all, watched
Wednesday as federal agents raided the quasi-Egyptian camp,
carting out a trailer full of evidence yet to be examined. The
future of Mr. York's group is in question.
"If he is found guilty, it would be a significant blow to the
organization," said Monticello attorney Ronny E. Jones, who
represented Mr. York in a land dispute with Putnam County and now
says Mr. York owes him some $15,000 in legal fees. "If he's really
taken out of the picture for a significant amount of time, I think
it would just dissolve."
Mr. Jones has a case pending in Clarke County Superior Court
against Mr. York, who lived for a time in Athens in a $528,000
home off Timothy Road. His is one of three civil suits filed
against Mr. York in Clarke County over the past three years.
Two women claimed Mr. York failed to pay child support for
three children he fathered. One case was closed by the custodial
parent, while the other was transferred to the Ocmulgee Judicial
Circuit in Putnam County because deputies were unable to serve Mr.
York with the suit in Clarke County.
"(According to a) housekeeper, Mr. York does not live here
anymore because so many people are looking for him," reads a note
written by a Clarke County sheriff's deputy on one child support
claim that went undelivered at Mr. York's listed address.
"He's a slippery person," said Mr. Jones, who said he suspects
Mr. York knew he was under investigation.
In 1996, according to Mr. York's former lawyer, the Georgia
Bureau of Investigation paid Mr. York a visit to make sure he
wouldn't cause any trouble during the Olympics.
"They were interviewing any group that might cause a problem
during the Olympics," Mr. Jones said. "He assured them that they
were a peaceful group."
Mr. Jones added that while he heard rumors of weapons being
stockpiled at the Eatonton compound, he saw no such evidence.
The latest allegations are said to be the result of a four-year
inquiry. They might have their roots in an anonymous
whistle-blower within the Nuwaubian sect. In 1998 or 1999, an
anonymous person who claimed to be a former member of Mr. York's
group sent letters to various people in Putnam County accusing him
of child molestation.
Eatonton attorney Frank Ford, who represented Putnam County in
several legal battles with Mr. York, received one such letter,
which he described as a cry for help.
"I could see these were very serious allegations," Mr. Ford
said. "It basically said he was having sex with 11-, 12- and
13-year-old girls and in some cases impregnating them."
Mr. Ford said it was claimed in the letter, which he turned
over to law authorities, that parents of the children "were just
offering them up" to Mr. York.
A grand jury has yet to convene in Eatonton to consider
bringing state charges of child molestation, which is not covered
under federal law. Currently, Mr. York faces federal charges of
the transporting of underage girls across state lines for the
purpose of sex.
In Athens, the most visible sign of Mr. York's influence is the
faux-Moorish structure at the corner of West Broad and Church
streets. Originally envisioned as a lodge for the Nuwaubians, it
is now intended to be a bookstore with an office and break room,
according to public documents.
After six months without any work done on the site, workers
have been seen in recent weeks doing masonry work on the exterior.
Mr. York's former legal nemesis Mr. Ford said this week's
criminal charges could bring real upheaval among the true
believers. In the past, he said, anyone charged with a crime was
immediately cast out from the group.
"What will their reaction be now?" he asked.