FBI: Kids from 4 to 18 abused in sect
Atlanta Journal-Constitutuion/May 14, 2002
By Bill Osinski
Eatonton --- The child molestation case against Nuwaubian
leader Dwight York escalated Monday in state and federal court.
In Eatonton, a Putnam County grand jury issued a 116-count
indictment of the 56-year-old leader of the United Nuwaubian
Nation of Moors, a quasi-religious group whose 150 to 200 members
live in a rural compound that features huge pyramids and a large
gate covered with hieroglyphics.
York was charged with 74 counts of child molestation, 29 counts
of aggravated child molestation and related charges, including one
count of rape.
In Macon, an FBI agent testified at a bond hearing in U.S.
District Court that authorities have identified as many as 35
victims, whose age at the time of the alleged crimes ranged from 4
York is in federal custody after being arrested Wednesday by
FBI agents in Baldwin County as an army of federal and local
officers swooped down on the compound in Putnam County. York's
associate, Kathy Johnson, who was arrested with him on the federal
charges, also was named in five counts of the state indictment.
Three other members of the Nuwaubian group --- identified as
Chandra Lampkin, Kadijah Merritt and Esther Cole --- were indicted
on state charges of child molestation.
Fred Bright, district attorney for the judicial circuit that
includes Putnam County, said the state indictment accuses York of
molesting at least five children repeatedly "and in just about
every way imaginable."
The indictments crown a four-year investigation by the FBI and
the Putnam County sheriff's office. It began when a local social
service agency received anonymous allegations that children were
being sexually abused at the Nuwaubians' 400-acre ranch.
York and the Nuwaubians have frequently criticized Putnam
County authorities for what they contend is racial discrimination
Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin said there were no
ulterior motives to the state's charges.
"There's nothing political about child molestation," she said.
All the alleged crimes were committed at the Nuwaubian
compound, Bright said.
FBI agent Jalaine Ward testified at the bond hearing in federal
court in Macon regarding the scope of the government's case
York Said to Have Ruled with Iron Hand
The government has statements from approximately 15 witnesses
who testified that York sodomized and had sexual intercourse with
children, Ward testified. In some of these encounters, the acts
were photographed and videotaped, she said.
The agent's testimony depicted a long-standing pattern of
York's having sex with children within his community.
The incidents started at his group's bases in New York and
continued after the sect moved in 1993 to a Putnam County farm and
--- in the alleged acts that make this case a federal matter ---
during an estimated 15 to 20 trips to Disney World in Florida over
the past four years, investigators say.
"York controls everything that goes on" at the compound, Ward
said, summarizing witness descriptions of life at the former
cattle ranch, which the Nuwaubians have decorated with
Egyptian-style pyramids and statuary. In some Nuwaubian
literature, York is called the group's savior or god.
Ward said York controlled what and how much his followers ate,
how much money they were permitted, and whether they could come
and go at the compound.
The federal prosecutor wants to deny York bail, but U.S.
Magistrate Judge Claude Hicks indicated he would not rule on that
matter before today, when the bond hearing resumes.
Hicks ruled that defense attorneys could review the 50-page
affidavit used to support York's arrest, but he also gave
prosecutors time to black out the names of victims mentioned in
Defense Lawyer Demands to See Papers
Defense attorney Ed Garland of Atlanta argued he should have
access to unedited versions of the federal investigative document.
"We are here, really, in the dark," Garland told the court. "If
a confidential informant is also a victim, then they are not
entitled to be shielded."
Hicks rejected that argument, but Garland renewed his demand
for the documents as he started to cross-examine Ward. It was then
the hearing was adjourned for the day.
In her testimony, the FBI agent said children typically were
separated from adults at the Nuwaubian compound. They were not
allowed contact with their natural parents without York's
permission, she said.
Witnesses have stated that Johnson, York's associate, was an
active participant in some of the sex acts with the children, Ward
said. Johnson brought children to York for sex and instructed them
on sexual techniques, the agent said.
Ward also testified that some of the children were intimidated
and threatened by York. One of the females who accused York said
he "threatened to shoot her in the head" if she reported the
sexual abuse to authorities, Ward said.
In a search of the farm conducted last week during the massive
raid by authorities, federal agents confiscated more than 30
weapons, about a dozen of which were found in York's house, Ward