June 27, 2003
Macon -- Defense attorneys for the former leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors say a federal judge's rejection of a plea bargain in a child molestation case against him raises new legal issues.
Everybody knows he's pleaded guilty, said attorney Manny Arora, who represents Malachi York, after U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson's ruling was made public Thursday. "So it's going to be hard for him to get a fair trial."
Lawson set a hearing on the case for Monday in Macon. Arora said York will be asked to announce his decision on whether to withdraw his guilty plea.
York, 58, was the leader of the quasi-religious group based on a 400-acre farm in Putnam County. The group began as an Islamic sect in the early 1970s in Brooklyn, N.Y. When York and his followers moved to Putnam County 10 years ago, the group claimed York was an extraterrestrial.
On Jan. 23, he pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of transporting children across state lines for the purpose of illegal sex and to one count of illegally structuring cash transactions.
The next day, he pleaded guilty in state court in Putnam County to 77 counts related to child molestation.
As part of the plea bargain, state and federal prosecutors agreed to recommend that York be given a prison sentence that would make him eligible for parole in approximately 12 years.
Arora said York's deal with state prosecutors remains in place, as far as he is concerned. If York decides to go to trial, that would cause problems for both sides, in part because it would be difficult to assemble witnesses.
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