July 2, 2002
By Stephen Gurr
A Florida man has filed a lawsuit against jailed religious sect leader Dwight York in Athens 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 June 24, seeks punitive damages of $1 billion. The name of the plaintiff in the suit is being withheld by this newspaper because of his relation to the alleged victim, a minor.
The suit claims that the victim and her mother, a member of York's quasi-religious United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, moved into York's Putnam County compound in 1993. At the age of 11, the suit alleges, the girl was told by a member of York's ''inner circle'' that something ''wonderful'' was going to happen to her, and that it would have ''deep significance for her spiritual development.''
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 claims.
''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 suit claims.
The victim named in the complaint is also listed as a victim in a 116-count criminal indictment against York on charges of child molestation and other related crimes.
The indictment was returned by a Putnam County grand jury three months ago and York remains in federal custody on charges of transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of sex.
York's attorney, Ed Garland, was unavailable for comment Monday. Garland has previously said his client was ''completely, totally and absolutely innocent of these charges.''
Athens attorney John Barrow, representing the plaintiff, declined to comment on the suit.
Athens-Clarke Police looked into the possibility that York may have molested children in his sprawling Mansfield Court mansion, which he purchased in 1999 for $557,000. But as of this week, police said, interviews with potential victims have turned up no indications of criminal activities at the mansion.
Putnam County investigators and officials with the state Division of Family and Children Services interviewed a cult member's daughter who lives in Athens, but ''no criminal charges have been filed to date as a result of that interview,'' Athens-Clarke County Assistant Police Chief Mark Wallace said Monday.
The lawsuit says the molestations of the girl named in the complaint continued for six years, until she called her father in 1999 and told him she wanted to go home. In March 2002, she confided in family members about the abuses and the father contacted authorities, the suit claims.
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