The Athens Banner-Herald
January 25, 2003
By Stephen Gurr
Dwight ''Malachi'' York admitted Friday to molesting 13 children from his quasi-Egyptian religious sect at their Putnam County compound, and prosecutors said he also molested numerous children in his Athens mansion on Mansfield Court.
In a negotiated plea, the 57-year-old leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors agreed with Putnam County prosecutors to a sentence of 14 years in prison, followed by 36 years of probation, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin said. The prison term will run concurrently with a federal sentence of 14 years he is expected to receive in U.S District Court after admitting to similar crimes on Thursday.
Among the state charges, York pleaded guilty to 40 counts of aggravated child molestation, 34 counts of child molestation, one count of child exploitation and two counts of influencing witnesses.
York pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to one count of unlawful transport of minors for the purpose of engaging in sex acts and one count of attempting to evade financial reporting requirements. Prosecutors are recommending 14 years to be served concurrently with the state sentence, U.S. Attorney Pam Lightsey said. The government is also seizing about $400,000 in cash and about 20 guns confiscated in Athens and Eatonton.
York will likely serve out his entire sentence in a federal penitentiary, Baskin said. ''This plea is pretty carefully calibrated where it's long enough to be real punishment,'' said former Putnam County Attorney Frank Ford, who was present at Friday's hearing and has had frequent clashes with the Nuwaubians over zoning issues at the group's compound. ''It's short enough that he won't die in prison, but it's long enough that he won't live too much longer after he's released.''
York would be 71 years old if he served the full prison term. With good behavior, he would be eligible for parole after 12 years and nine months.
During Friday's hearing, Baskin told Judge William A. Prior Jr. that witnesses could testify to at least 45 similar acts of child molestation that occurred in York's Athens home. York has never been charged with crimes committed in Clarke County, but was indicted last year on 208 counts involving molestation at the group's Putnam County compound.
Reached after the plea, Baskin said evidence gathered during a May 2002 search of the Athens home corroborated statements given by the victims.
''We know for at least half of the victims listed in the indictment, their sexual molestation began in Putnam County,'' Baskin said. ''From the time Mr. York moved into the house in Athens in 1999 until his return to Putnam County in early 2001, many of these victims were transported from Eatonton to Athens, where they would stay for weeks on end.''
Baskin said the children had to ask York for even the most minor things in writing, which he called ''request submissions.'' If the children refused to engage in sex acts with York, he would deny their requests, Baskin said.
Reached Friday, Clarke County District Attorney Ken Mauldin said he had been made aware of the alleged acts in Clarke County by Putnam County District Attorney Fred Bright. Mauldin said part of Bright's negotiated plea with York stipulated that he would not be prosecuted for the crimes alleged in Clarke County. All of the alleged victims in Clarke County were included in Bright's case against York in Putnam County, Mauldin said.
Baskin said though the 13 victims were prepared to testify, they also sought a resolution where they could avoid re-living their childhood traumas in open court.
''These victims all came under tremendous pressure from the followers of Mr. York,'' Baskin said. ''A lot of them wanted this to come to an end. Out of a courtesy to our victims we decided to agree to a plea of this nature. If there had been a trial and a conviction, we would have looked at years of appeals that would not bring a conclusion. This brings a conclusion.''
And the plea, Baskin says, unmasks York.
''What we gave to our victims is that Mr. York stood up in court and said, 'I did it,'?'' Baskin said. ''There's no way his followers can say he was railroaded or there was a conspiracy.''
Said Ford, ''The biggest thing is this guy who claimed to be a messiah stood up in court and admitted he was nothing less than a monster.''
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