York federal trial delayed
Athens Banner-Herald/July 29, 2003
By Joe Johnson
The scheduled Aug. 4 start of the federal trial of religious
sect leader and admitted child molester Dwight ''Malachi'' York
has been postponed due to the recent replacement of the trial
U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal last week replaced Judge
Hugh Lawson after York's attorneys claimed Lawson had lost his
impartiality in the case. A new trial date had not been set as of
''We have no information at this time as to when the trial will
begin,'' said Pamela Lightsey, spokeswoman for U.S. Department of
Justice's Middle District of Georgia.
York, 58, is leader of a religious sect called the United
Nuwaubian Nation of Moors.
He pleaded guilty to 74 state counts of child molestation and
other related charges, and as part of an agreement with federal
prosecutors had pleaded guilty to a single count of transporting
children across state lines for sexual purposes.
Lawson last month rejected the plea agreement on the grounds
the 15-year prison sentence it included had been ''too lenient.''
Soon after, York's attorneys filed a motion requesting Lawson to
recuse himself from the case because he had inadvertently become a
participant in the plea-bargaining process when he stated he would
accept a plea agreement that included a 20-year prison sentence.
Lawson granted that motion, and he was replaced last week with
Royal, a former University of Georgia law professor and school
Upon his assignment to the case, Royal inherited several
pending motions, which he may or may not choose to rule on.
''Judge Royal is taking the case as it exists, so he could have
a hearing on the motions or not, and he can rule on the motions or
not,'' Lightsey said.
Lightsey said it was her understanding that Royal could also
overrule decisions Lawson had made on previous motions.
Among the pending motions are requests by the defense to
suppress evidence, including certain items removed during searches
of York's properties in Putnam and Athens-Clarke counties.
York in 1993 bought 476 acres in Eatonton, which was turned
into a compound that housed more than 150 Nuwaubians and was
headquarters for a sect-related business enterprise. York bought a
mansion on Mansfield Court in Athens in 1998.
Also pending is a defense motion for a change of venue to a
location where potential jurors would be less likely to be
influenced by pre-trial publicity.