Sect chief's influence felt at Clarke
Deputy's letter to convicted child molester sparks probe by
chief jailer who's fired
Athens Banner-Herald/June 18, 2006
By Joe Johnson
In March, Clarke County's chief jailer Brett Hart got a letter
from a federal prison.
It said a local sheriff's deputy was writing to one of the
inmates, convicted child molester Dwight "Malachi" York, a
spiritual leader the deputy affectionately calls "Baba" and
"Pops," according to documents obtained by the Athens
Hart opened an internal investigation to find out how deputies
were trying to recruit prisoners at the Clarke County Jail into
the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a religious sect with black
supremacist overtones headed by York.
A month later, Hart was abruptly fired.
Clarke County Sheriff Ira Edwards gives only vague explanations
why he fired the highly-regarded jailer; Hart, pondering a
lawsuit, won't speculate.
But Hart's attorney sees only one possibility: Hart continued
to press an investigation that his superiors didn't seem
interested in pursuing.
Documents obtained by the Banner-Herald include correspondence
between Hart and federal prison officials, as well as letters sent
by a Clarke County sheriff's deputy and others to York at the
maximum security prison in Colorado where the sect leader is
serving a 135-year sentence.
Nuwaubian literature - some approved and some banned by jail
officials - had been circulating around the Lexington Road
facility for some time, according to deputies who work at the
But it wasn't until March 7, when the Special Investigative
Supervisor's Office of the Colorado prison notified Hart that
prison officials had intercepted a letter from a Clarke County
sheriff's deputy to York, that the jail opened an internal affairs
While Hart contends the deputy violated jail policy by writing
to a convicted felon, Edwards said the matter was discussed with
an attorney who determined no policies were violated, although the
policy about corresponding with prison inmates is being looked at
for possible revision.
Of the five letters to York the Banner-Herald obtained from a
source who did not want to be identified, two were written by the
same deputy. The others were from civilians who shared addresses
"I am one of the ones that answered the call when you suggested
that brothers join law enforcement agencies," the deputy wrote
sect leader York. "I have been with the Clarke County Sheriff's
Office since April of 2001. Baba, the brothers are with you. We
are organizing the Supreme Grand Lodge for your return to give us
The deputy, who holds the rank of corporal, identifies himself
to York as "one of your sons" and wrote about organizational
efforts here and elsewhere.
"I went to Chicago recently and spoke with brothers interested
in joining the brotherhood," the deputy told York. "We are doing
our best to get a Lodge started here ... Hopefully this will
spiral into the entire community and we can squash the unnecessary
beef amongst us. If you have a message for any of the brothers, I
will directly relay it to them."
In another letter, the deputy tells York about efforts to prove
the sect leader's innocence through the media and Internet.
"This will not only inform people of your innocence, but will
save souls and unite the family under our doctrine of Wu-Nuwaubu.
We support Africa because that is FIRST. We will put Baba in
The day after the federal prison official contacted Hart and he
initiated an internal investigation, a superior officer told the
chief jailer to get the original letter, as well as the mailing
"That struck me as an odd request," Hart said in an interview
Wednesday. "I saw no need for the original letter and mailing
label since there were no criminal charges that would require
Hart said he received the originals March 29 and turned them
over to a sergeant conducting the internal affairs investigation.
Two days later, Hart e-mailed the federal prison the names and
addresses of four other deputies, asking for any letters they may
have sent to York.
The prison responded that there were no letters from those
deputies, although they found some from other people who shared
the same addresses as deputies.
In one of the letters, dated March 2, a woman who shares the
same Athens post office box as a deputy addresses York as "Dad,"
and talks about members of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam
attending the Nuwaubians' annual Children's Ball at a Bogart Elks
Club in order to present an award to York.
"With the greater involvement of the NOI I feel there is an
effort to make our nation bow to theirs, when they should be
coming to us and you," she wrote.
Another woman, with the same address of another deputy, told
York how she'd shaved her head, eyelashes, eyebrows "and some
other hair," and how York had "made me beautiful beyond hair."
She refers to herself as York's "daughter" and tells the sect
leader, "I wanna go home to Africa with you, my father, now and
In the cell block
Hart said Edwards hired six Nuwaubian deputies, four of whom
were among a group of former Macon police officers and
firefighters who quit in 2004 after the city wouldn't investigate
their claims that York was the victim of a conspiracy.
According to Hart, one of the deputies was verbally reprimanded
last year for violating the jail's Code of Conduct by trying to
distribute prohibited Nuwaubian literature to a maximum-security
Jail policy forbids deputies from proselytizing any faith or
beliefs to inmates or distributing religious literature that has
not been approved by the jail's chaplain. Hart said some Nuwaubian
literature was approved for distribution.
"We denied an inmate's grievance that he wasn't allowed a book,
'Was Adam Black or White,' which was full of racially inflammatory
statements," Hart said of a book written by York.
"The chaplain later discovered material in the inmate's cell
and it was confiscated," Hart said. "It was the same literature
(the deputy) tried unsuccessfully to bring to the inmate before."
Edwards said his office found no evidence of wrongdoing.
"The sheriff's office investigated allegations of distribution
of Nuwaubian materials and could not identify any sheriff's office
employee who made such distributions," Edwards said.
Despite the jail's ban on some Nuwaubian material, a deputy
told York in an April letter that he and fellow sect members were
"I have still managed to propagate our doctrine to many of the
inmates there," the deputy wrote. "The administration at the jail
really doesn't want our books in the jail, but they can't stop
Pops. I have many scrolls circulating in the jail. The irony is
that every day I work here, though, makes me realize more and more
that YOU DON'T BELONG IN PRISON! That is why I continue to fight
for your freedom."
Hart said the Nuwaubian deputies' presence at the jail was
disruptive, and not just because of their recruitment efforts.
One deputy, who is black, said his Nuwaubian co-workers are
"They think the white man's the Devil," said the deputy, who
requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. "I can't get down
The deputy added, "What gets me the most is how they were
passing out information to inmates, convicted felons with no cause
in life. When you look at it, those are the easiest people to
recruit because they are the most vulnerable."
Hart also contends the sect is racist.
"The Nuwaubians are a racial supremacist organization, and
several white deputies were concerned if they found themselves
defending against a black inmate, they wondered which side the
Nuwaubian deputies would be on in a conflict between black and
white," Hart said.
Edwards said his decision to fire Hart had nothing to do with
Hart pressing forward with the investigation into Nuwaubian
activities at the jail.
Though the sheriff would not agree to an interview, he replied
to questions via e-mail, and in a statement sent Friday,
reiterated a previous explanation of why he dismissed Hart as jail
"I decided that there needed to be a change in the management
of jail operations. That was my judgment as sheriff and that is my
When asked to elaborate, Edwards said, "In the interest of
fairness to our employees, I do not comment publicly about the
circumstances of a former employee's separation from employment
with the sheriff's office."
On the advice of his attorney, Hart declined to comment when
asked if he was fired because of the investigation he initiated.
His lawyer, William J. Atkins, however, said, "I can think of
no other explanation for Brett to have been terminated."
Atkins noted that Hart was highly qualified and received
stellar job performance reviews each year since he was hired to
run the jail in 2000. The attorney had previously commented that
Hart's firing involved "a very sensitive and potentially explosive
set of circumstances."
Atkins wouldn't say more because he said Hart may sue, alleging
his firing was discriminatory or violated his constitutional
Edwards said his office fully investigated Hart's concerns
about a deputy corresponding with York, and again no wrongdoing
"The sheriff's office investigated allegations of violations of
policy involving communication with convicted felons and after
consultation with counsel concluded that there were no policy
violations," Edwards said. "The relevant section of the Standard
Operating Procedure is under review for possible revision."
But Hart said it is a violation of jail policy for staff to
communicate with convicted felons, and that the deputy should have
been disciplined or fired.
He questioned the thoroughness of the internal affairs
investigation and efforts by the sheriff's office to crack down on
prohibited activities by deputies.
"The only thing I know is, on April 16, (the corporal) wrote to
Malachi York again," Hart said. "And since March 7, the only
member of the sheriff's office who has contacted (the Colorado
prison) was myself."
During a meeting of the sheriff's command staff the last week
of March, Sgt. Mike Young, an internal affairs officer, gave a
progress report on the investigation.
"The first thing Sgt. Young did was give a rundown of the
investigation's progress, and he listed (the corporal) as one of
the deputies distributing Nuwaubian materials," Hart said in an
On April 3, Hart provided Young with additional information for
the investigation, along with the name and telephone number of an
FBI agent that the Colorado prison had also contacted concerning
the deputy's intercepted letter.
Four days later, on April 7, Edwards summoned Hart to his
office at the Clarke County Courthouse and told him he was fired.
"The sheriff gave no other reason for terminating me other than
saying a change in jail management was necessary," Hart said.
Placed on administrative leave, Hart's employment was officially
terminated May 7.
Hart said Edwards ordered him to surrender his badge, gun and
other county equipment, and had a captain drive Hart straight to
the jail to clean out his office and then to his home.
"This treatment is normally reserved for staff who committed
serious criminal misconduct, and it's known as the 'ride of
shame,' " Hart said.
The sheriff denied Hart was harshly treated.
"The transportation furnished was not intended to belittle Mr.
Hart," Edwards said. "At that time, he was placed on
administrative leave with pay and the assistance was provided as a
courtesy. Mr. Hart could have chosen a different means to go to
the Jail and to his home."
York, 60, claims to be from another galaxy and had promised
followers a spaceship was going to arrive in 2003 to spirit away
144,000 true believers.
The identity and beliefs of the Nuwaubians have morphed since
York led groups in New York City known as Ansaar Pure Sufi and the
Nubian Islamic Hebrews. He also adopted the name Chief Black
York and hundreds of his followers moved to Georgia in 1993.
In Athens, Nuwaubians made contributions to the community, such
as when they donated 3,000 cans of food to local food banks. York
also contributed $2,000 to Edwards' campaign for sheriff in 2000.
Edwards said the contribution did not buy the Nuwaubians any
"I have no allegiance or sympathy with the Nuwaubian group or
any of its members," Edwards said.
Under the guise of spiritual leader and deity, prosecutors
said, York sexually abused children as young as 8 years old at the
Nuwaubians' 476-acre compound in Eatonton, where up to 500 sect
members lived. Children also were abused at York's mansion on
Mansfield Court in Athens, prosecutors said.
York was arrested in May 2002, and a U.S. District Court jury
convicted York in January 2004 on charges of racketeering,
conspiracy to transport minors for unlawful sex, two counts of
transporting minors for unlawful sex, traveling across state lines
to engage in unlawful sex, and three charges of structuring cash
transactions to avoid reporting requirements.
Despite York's conviction, many Nuwaubians remain loyal to
their spiritual leader, and there are countless postings on the
Internet from followers across the nation proclaiming York's
innocence and a government conspiracy.
One Clarke County deputy told York in a letter about efforts to
have him freed from prison, and preparations were being made for
"We have created a website, www.heisinnocent.com," the deputy
wrote. "This site is dedicated to letting the world know the facts
that show you are completely innocent and a serious conspiracy was
plotted against a just man of God."
A billboard promoting the Web site is at the site of the
Nuwaubians' former Holy Tabernacle Ministries bookstore on West
Meetings and classes continue to be held at the Nuwaubians'
lodge on West Hancock Avenue, according to The United Nuwaubian
Nation Web site.
One member's call to continue the fight to free York, made at
the last "Family Meeting" at the lodge, on June 10, was posted on
the Web site:
"This is the time we need to be aware of the importance of
being more unified. Considering what's going on in the world and
the day and time we are living; Wars, Tornados, children killing
children, families against families. It's a sign of the time and
we need our master teacher."
United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors spiritual leader Dwight
"Malachi" York, above in full regalia and below as he is led from
a federal courthouse in Macon after his 2004 sentencing for
molestation and other crimes. Letters to York indicate Nuwaubian
recruitment efforts at the Clarke County Jail.
A vague termination
Former chief jailer Brett Hart, left, started an investigation
into reported attempts by the Nuwaubians to recruit inmates at the
Clarke County Jail. A month later, Sheriff Ira Edwards fired Hart,
explaining that "there needed to be a change in management of jail
operations." Hart's lawyer said there can be only one explanation
for the termination of Hart, who was highly regarded: The