May 14, 2002
A state case is now unfolding against the leader of a Putnam County religious sect and three of his followers, who in total face 116 counts of child molestation, authorities said.
Fifty-six-year-old Dwight York, the leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, is named in a state indictment handed down Monday against himself and three other Nuwaubians.
Chaundra Lampkin faces three counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated child molestation. Kadijah Merritt faces three counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated child molestation.
Esther Cole faces one count of child molestation, officials said.
All four are expected to appear in court soon on the state charges.
York, Wife Await Bond Decision
York and 33-year-old Kathy Johnson, one of his wives, appeared in a federal court Tuesday in Macon, Ga., for the second day of their bond hearing.
Federal agents arrested York and Johnson on May 8, and charged them with trafficking a minor across state lines for sex. An indictment handed down earlier that day accused the couple of taking teens from Sullivan County, New York, to Putnam County, Ga., and from Georgia to Orlando, Fla., in order to engage in illegal sexual acts.
On Monday, the first day of the bond hearing, special FBI agent Jalaine Ward spoke in graphic detail about York and Johnson's alleged assaults on the children of the sect's followers.
Ward said the incidents started in March 1993 in New York, and continued in Georgia after York moved his followers to the state during that same year.
York, who told his followers to refer to him as their god, and Johnson have had older children help them molest the younger children, Ward said.
Defense: York, Johnson 'Absolutely Innocent'
Speaking about both York and Johnson, defense attorney Ed Garland said they are "complete, totally and absolutely innocent of these charges."
"Our position will be clearly that a bond is appropriate, that there is no danger to the community, that in fact the reverend is a valued and important part of the community," Garland said.
York also faces three counts of traveling in order to have sex with a minor in Orlando. Each count carries a maximum penalty of not more than 15 years in jail, and not more than a $250,000 fine.
In addition to the federal charges, York and Johnson also face at least ten counts of aggravated child molestation at the state level.
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