Three suspended amid jail probe

Athens Banner-Herald/July 3, 2006
By Joe Johnson

At least two sheriff's deputies belonging to a controversial religious cult and a third jail employee have been suspended from their jobs as a grand jury continues to investigate United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors activities at the Clarke County Jail, several deputies said.


One of the suspended deputies, Cpl. Anthony Montgomery, appeared before the grand jury on Thursday, a week after County Attorney Bill Berryman unsuccessfully sought to quash subpoenas issued to Montgomery and fellow deputy William York. Although York also testified Thursday, several co-workers said York wasn't suspended.

Interim Clarke County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jack Mitchell refused to answer e-mailed questions about the suspensions, including who was suspended and when, and how long the suspensions would last.

Mitchell offered the same answer to all six e-mailed questions concerning suspended deputies: "This is an ongoing matter, and we cannot respond to these questions at this time."

In addition to deputies Montgomery and Leon Adams, also a Nuwaubian, a third employee, Rena Jennings, a civilian who works in the jail's prisoner classification unit, also was suspended, several co-workers said.

Nuwaubians follow cult leader Dwight "Malachi" York, 60, who was convicted in U.S. District Court in Macon two years ago on child molestation, racketeering, tax evasion and other charges and is serving a 135-year sentence at a federal maximum security prison in Colorado. York claims, among other things, to be from another galaxy, and he preaches a form of black supremacy.

Deputies at the county jail have said they are concerned about which side Nuwaubian deputies would take if a fight broke out along racial lines at the jail.

Court workers on Monday said they saw both Montgomery and York enter the grand jury room Thursday, and that Sheriff Ira Edwards followed later, the second time the sheriff has appeared before the investigative panel in less than a month.

It's not clear whether a third suspended jail employee, Adams, testified before the grand jury. He does have Nuwaubian ties, however, and was part of a group of Macon police officers and firefighters that quit in 2004 after the city refused to open its own investigation into whether York was the victim of a conspiracy.

Edwards had hired six Nuwaubian deputies, four of whom were former Macon police officers, according to former Chief Jailer Brett Hart, who was fired this spring.

Grand juries not only indict criminals but often consider civil matters, such as conditions at the county jail. The current grand jury apparently is looking into events that led Edwards to fire Hart in April, around the same time Hart was investigating whether Nuwaubian deputies were recruiting prisoners into their sect and if a deputy violated jail policy by corresponding with the imprisoned sect leader.

Edwards said he looked into allegations of wrongdoing by Montgomery and York but found no evidence of policy violations.

Mitchell said one of the deputies was suspended before after Loganville police cited him in August 2004 for leaving the scene of an wreck that caused damage on private property.

"Corporal Montgomery was suspended for 10 days without pay following an investigation of this incident." Mitchell said.

In the wake of that crash, which police said happened when Montgomery fell asleep at the wheel of his car and struck a Chick-fil-A sign, the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council placed the deputy on probation for two years.

Montgomery was not intoxicated, although a test at the scene showed his breath was "slightly positive" for alcohol consumption, according to an officer standards council report of the crash.

There were four passengers in Montgomery's car at the time, according to the report, which also said Montgomery was the designated driver from Atlanta to Monroe.















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