The Augusta Chronicle
May 14, 2002
The jailed leader of a middle Georgia religious group molested dozens of children, some as young as 4, during the past nine years, an FBI agent testified Monday.
United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors founder Dwight York and his partner, Kathy Johnson, are seeking bail on charges they transported minors across state lines for sex beginning in 1993, the year his group settled in rural Putnam County. The hearing, which will continue in federal court today, was held less than a week after more than 100 officers raided the Nuwaubian compound.
FBI Agent Jalaine Ward testified that three children told her they were forced to perform oral sex and other acts with Mr. York, 56, and Ms. Johnson, 33. The children, ages 4, 6 and 8 at the time, were photographed and videotaped engaging in sexual acts and posing in sexually explicit positions, she said.
Children at the compound were separated from their parents at an early age, with visitation dictated by Mr. York, Agent Ward testified. He also controlled devotees' money, food and clothing, dictated where they lived, and when they could enter and leave the compound. Also, men could not talk to or have sex with women without his permission.
The children who were abused were "treated more specially than children who weren't involved in sexual activities with York," Agent Ward said, adding that they were forced to watch pornographic cartoons. Some said they tried hiding in closets and under beds to avoid Mr. York.
Agent Ward said witnesses told investigators that 30 to 35 children ages 4 to 18 were molested during the past decade. She said Mr. York brought some children to the compound from New York. He also took 15 to 20 trips to Disney World in Florida in the past four years, transporting minors with him and abusing them there.
The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors is a predominantly black, quasi-religious group whose members live in a rural compound resembling an ancient Egyptian theme park, with huge pyramids and a large gate covered with hieroglyphics. In some Nuwaubian literature, Mr. York has been referred to as the group's savior or god and as an extraterrestrial from the planet "Rizq."
Mr. York and Ms. Johnson were arrested Wednesday as they traveled a few miles from the 476-acre compound. Officers seized at least 30 handguns and rifles during the raid, the FBI said.
Mr. York, who also calls himself Malachi, faces four counts involving sexual exploitation of minors. The maximum penalty for each charge is 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Ms. Johnson faces one charge.
Defense attorneys' cross-examination of Agent Ward was delayed until this morning after U.S. Magistrate Judge Claude Hicks ruled that prosecutors had to turn over the affidavits they presented to obtain a warrant to search the Nuwaubians' Eatonton compound.
Mr. York's attorney Ed Garland said reviewing the affidavits and presenting character witnesses today will show that his client deserves to be free on bond.