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York pleads innocent in Putnam case

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/October 26, 2002
By Bob Osinski

 

Eatonton -- Sect leader and accused child molester Dwight York returned shackled and handcuffed Friday to Putnam County. It was the first time since his May arrest on federal and state charges that the 57-year-old leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors had come back to the county where he had once hoped to turn his 400-acre farm into a separate nation called the Egypt of the West. He had been kept at an undisclosed location since the arrest.

The official reason for York's visit was a court appearance, where he pleaded not guilty to all 208 counts of the state's indictment, which accuses York of repeated sexual molestation of the children of some of his followers.

Approximately 200 of his followers came to the courthouse to support York, giving the proceedings the flavor of a rally.

On the courthouse green, they chanted, "God will make a way!" and "We love you!" as York, dressed in a blue business suit, was led into a police van.

Inside the courtroom, York played subtly to his audience. During a recess, he turned and smiled at his followers, who were almost all dressed in black.

When his co-defendant Kathy Johnson, whom his attorneys have referred to as his wife, passed him to enter her own plea of not guilty, he briefly clasped her hand.

Johnson is charged with participating in some of the alleged acts of molestation.

One of York's supporters, Augusta-based pastor Alexander Smith, said he and many of the others question the validity of the charges.

"We don't think he's capable of these horrendous charges," Smith said.

Friday's hearing may be one of the last times York appears in Putnam County.

Superior Court Judge William Prior Jr. agreed with defense and prosecuting attorneys that York's trial should be moved away from the county.

Prior indicated he will pick a trial site within a few weeks. Prosecutors expect the trial to start in January.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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