July 3, 2002
By Stephen Gurr
Athens, Ga. -- A Florida man has filed a lawsuit against jailed religious sect leader Dwight York in northeast Georgia federal court, accusing the one-time Athens resident of molesting the plaintiff's daughter when she was 11 years old.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court on June 24, seeks punitive damages of $1 billion. The name of the plaintiff in the suit is being withheld because of his relation to the alleged victim, a minor.
The suit alleges that the girl and her mother, a member of Mr. York's quasi-religious United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, moved into Mr. York's Putnam County compound in 1993. At the age of 11, the suit alleges, the girl was told by a member of Mr. York's "inner circle" that something "wonderful" was going to happen to her, and that it would have "deep significance for her spiritual development."
Mr. York then showed the girl a pornographic movie and shortly afterward had sex with her, the suit alleges.
"He had (the girl) observe defendant York sexually abuse other children in a like manner, all for the purpose of gratifying his wicked, depraved, and corrupt sexual appetite," the suit says.
"This pattern of activity began at the compound in Putnam County and continued in Athens-Clarke County after York began to reside in Athens-Clarke County in 1998."
The victim named in the complaint is also listed as a victim in a 116-count criminal indictment against Mr. York on charges of child molestation and related crimes.
The indictment was returned by a Putnam County grand jury three months ago, and Mr. York remains in federal custody on charges of transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of sex.
Mr. York's attorney, Ed Garland, of Atlanta, could not be found for comment, but has said that his client is "completely, totally and absolutely innocent of these charges."
Athens attorney John Barrow, representing the plaintiff, would not comment on the suit.
Athens-Clarke Police looked into the possibility that Mr. York might have molested children in his sprawling Athens mansion. As of this week, police said, interviews with potential victims have turned up no indications of criminal activities at the mansion.
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