Property hearing for Nuwaubian leader postponed

Athens Banner-Herald/June 22, 2004
By Joe Johnson

A hearing in federal court in Macon on whether to seize property owned in Athens-Clarke and Putnam counties by convicted child molester Dwight ''Malachi'' York has been postponed a week because of the unavailability of a witness, court officials said.


The hearing in U.S. District Court - originally scheduled for today - was to determine whether, under federal assets forfeiture laws, the government could confiscate real estate valued at over $1.3 million York owns in Athens and Putnam County where dozens of molestations of children as young as 8 occurred.

Pending the outcome of that hearing, which was rescheduled for June 30, a civil assets forfeiture hearing will be scheduled concerning the seizure of more than $400,000 during a search of York's Athens and Putnam County residences.

Attorneys for the leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a quasi-religious sect who was convicted of child molestation and racketeering, have filed an appeal in federal court, saying a key government witness in the case has recanted her testimony.

York was sentenced in April to 135 years in federal prison.

His conviction in January was largely based on the testimony of cult members who said he molested children at the group's 440-acre compound outside Eatonton in Putnam County compound and at an Athens mansion, and manipulated the sect's finances from 1998 until 2002.

In May, York's attorneys asked U.S. District Court Judge C. Ashley Royal for a new trial, citing an affidavit from one of those members recanting her testimony that York molested her and then had her solicit other children to have sex with him.

York supporters had sent videotapes to several media outlets on April 22, the day of his sentencing, showing the woman saying she had been coerced into testifying against the defendant. Their group is now called the Yamassee Native American Moors, and York, their leader, is has changed his title to Chief Black Thunderbird Eagle.

U.S. Attorney Maxwell Wood said he did not believe a retrial will be granted because of the weight of evidence against York.

''This witness was not the sole witness against the defendant,'' Wood said. ''She was only one out of over 40 witnesses that testified for the prosecution, so it's not likely'' a new trial will be ordered.

Wood, head prosecutor for the U.S. District for Middle Georgia, added that witness testimony had been corroborated by the physical evidence and by testimony from medical experts.

York still awaits sentencing in Putnam County Superior Court, after he pleaded guilty in January 2003 to 77 state counts of child molestation, aggravated child molestation and exploitation of children.















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