Religious sect leader's trial date set
Athens Banner-Herald/September 10, 2003
By Joe Johnson
The long-delayed trial of religious sect leader and admitted
child molester Dwight ''Malachi'' York has been set to begin Jan.
5 in federal court.
Originally scheduled to start Aug. 4 in U.S. District Court in
Macon, York's law-yers had requested a a new trial date because
they said they needed more time to prepare in light of
court-ordered psychiatric testing that is being done on their
York was transferred last month from a Georgia county jail to a
federal penitentiary in order to undergo the testing to determine
his fitness to stand trial.
The evaluation of the former Athens resident's competency is
being done under the order of the new judge in York's case, U.S.
District Court Judge C. Ashley Royal, who denied York's recent
motion to void an earlier order for a psychiatric exam made by
U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson recused himself from the
case July 18, after York's defense team alleged Lawson had lost
his impartiality by becoming an unwitting participant in
York had already undergone one court-ordered exam, which raised
questions about his mental competency, and further evaluation was
ordered by Lawson following the judge's June 25 rejection of a
plea bargain York had made with federal prosecutors.
York, 58, is leader of a religious sect called the United
Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, and prosecutors allege that under the
guise of spiritual leader and deity, he sexually abused the
underage children of his followers at the Nuwaubian compound in
Eatonton and at York's mansion on Mansfield Court in Athens. York
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 in return for a
recommendation he serve 15 years in prison.
In rejecting the federal plea agreement, Lawson said 15 years
in prison would be too lenient a penalty for York. He told
attorneys he would agree to a 20-year prison sentence, which
prompted the defense's motion for Lawson to recuse himself.
Suddenly faced with the prospect of a trial, York's attorneys
asked Lawson for another psychiatric examination because they said
York was unable to assist in his own defense, as he told the
attorneys he was a Native American tribal chief over whom U.S.
courts held no jurisdiction.
Two days after Lawson granted the motion, a new addition to
York's defense team filed a motion asking Lawson to rescind his
order for the psychiatric exam. Miami attorney Frank Rubino
claimed in the motion that after spending two hours with his new
client, he determined York was able to assist in his own defense.
In denying the motion, Royal said he was relying on the report
that resulted from York's first examination, which concluded that
York was possibly suffering from a ''mental disease or defect''
that could render him incompetent to stand trial.