Judge OKs seizure of Nuwaubian property
The Macon Telegraph/July 14, 2004
By Gary Tanner and Sharon E.
U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal issued an order Thursday
allowing federal officials to seize $1.7 million in property tied
to the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, including the group's
476-acre headquarters in rural Putnam County.
Royal on Monday ruled the property is owned by the founder of
the religious sect, Malachi York, who was convicted in January of
child molestation and racketeering charges. His ruling Thursday
stated the government can proceed in taking ownership of the
Lawyer Robert Ratliff, who represents several members of the
group who claim ownership of the property, said Thursday he will
immediately file an appeal of Royal's decision. Ratliff said he
will ask the appeals court to issue an injunction to delay
government seizure of the property, which includes the Putnam
County compound and a $750,000 house in Athens.
U.S. Attorney Maxwell Wood said he doesn't know when the
government might take possession of the land.
"It's too early to put a timetable on that," he said.
Last year, federal prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit against
York to seize the two pieces of property and more than $430,000 in
cash seized at the time of York's arrest.
Two groups of people claiming to be York supporters came
forward saying they were the actual owners of the property.
Royal held a hearing June 30 to hear claims that York had
deeded the Putnam County property to three of his followers and
that ownership of the Athens house had been transferred to a
"We've said all along that Dwight (Malachi) York has always
been in control of these properties," Wood said Wednesday. "This
was just a ploy to create confusion ... which has become their
Royal's decision Thursday comes just two weeks after saying he
would delay making a decision until he determined whether York
would get a new trial. York founded the Nuwaubian group in the
late 1960s in New York and moved its headquarters to Putnam County
Royal's ruling Thursday did not explain why he decided to allow
the government forfeiture to proceed, and the judge's staff said
he does not publicly discuss his rulings.
"I don't understand it, because the U.S. attorney did agree to
(the delay)," Ratliff said of Royal's decision.
Wood said he would probably meet next week with representatives
from the U.S. Marshal's Office and other agencies to determine
when they will take possession of the property in Putnam County
and the home in Athens.
"I understand their lawyer will move to reconsider, and we'll
take that into account," Wood said. "There is no need to rush in
there. We will act methodically."
Both sides said that if the appeals fail and the government
does take possession of the property, they expect a peaceful
"The group will exercise every legal option - and there are
several - to prove their title to the land," Ratliff said. "But if
it came down to brass tacks, they would turn it over peacefully."
Wood said he expects no physical resistance from the
"I don't anticipate any problems," Wood said. "We've never had
that type of trouble with them before."
The group's Putnam County headquarters contains a church,
fellowship hall, offices and is home to about 50 people. The
grounds are decorated with Egyptian-style monuments, including two
pyramids and a replica of the Sphinx.
The group's teachings have incorporated parts of Islam, Judaism
and Christianity over the years, as well as the polytheistic
Egyptian themes. York at one time claimed to be from another