May 10, 2002
By Bill Osinski
Macon -- Nuwaubian leader Dwight York will stay in jail on child molestation charges at least until Monday, when government attorneys will argue that he should remain jailed until his trial.
York pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Claude Hicks, who set a bond hearing for Monday in Macon.
York's attorney, former state Sen. Leroy Johnson, said York reasserted his innocence to the charges he was arrested on Wednesday. He is charged with four counts of transporting children across state lines for the purpose of illegal sexual activity.
"Dr. York vehemently states that he has not violated any person," Johnson said. (York is often referred to by his followers as Dr. Malachi Z. York.)
The gray-bearded York, dressed in a loose fitting tan shirt and slacks, made no comment during the 15-minute hearing.
Hicks informed York and his co-defendant, associate Kathy Johnson, that they both face lengthy jail terms if convicted. York would get 11 to 14 years under federal sentencing guidelines. Johnson would be sentenced to six to seven years, Hicks said. There is no parole for federal convictions. The government will ask that York be denied bail.
"The very nature of the offense involves interstate travel," U.S. Attorney Max Wood said, indicating that York should be considered a flight risk.
"And with the allegations involving children, and the nature of the relationships [between York and the members of his group], that raises the level of concern," Wood said.
Wood refuted published statements by supporters of the Nuwaubians that the arrests and subsequent large-scale raid on the Nuwaubian headquarters were part of any politically motivated vendetta led by Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills.
For the past five or six years, the Nuwaubians have been involved in a series of disputes with Sills and other Putnam County officials, mostly over zoning issues at the group's 400-acre farm about eight miles east of Eatonton.
There is an ongoing state investigation of York, and in that part of the case, Sills confirmed Thursday that five children who may become witnesses are in the care of the Georgia Department of Family and Children's Services and under police guard, he said.