Macon Telegraph/October 29, 2003
By Rob Peecher
Eatonton -- The Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled that the state can continue its prosecution of accused child molester Kathy Johnson.
Johnson, a co-defendant with United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors leader Malachi York and the woman referred to by York's followers as his "main wife," is accused of molesting children with York. She faces 10 counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated child molestation.
The appellate court's ruling would allow York and Johnson to be tried together, but prosecutors say that's not likely.
Johnson's attorney, Brian Steele, filed a demand for a speedy trial, and in January he argued that the state did not meet the legal requirements under a speedy-trial demand and sought to have the case dismissed.
Ocmulgee Superior Court Judge William Prior denied the defense's request, finding that two terms of court had expired without Johnson going to trial from the time that her attorney filed the speedy trial demand, but also that there was no jury impaneled to decide the case during the first court term.
Last week, the state appellate court upheld Prior's decision, finding that the jury Steele argued counted in the first term had been discharged, and therefore the clock didn't start running until after the next term of court began.
Steele can ask the appellate court to reconsider the case and can also appeal the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.
District Attorney Fred Bright said Tuesday, after learning of the court of appeals' decision, that if Steele chooses not to appeal, he will have less than three months to get Johnson to trial.
Johnson was to have been tried with York, but in January he pleaded guilty to 77 state charges of molestation. York, who with Johnson also faced related federal charges, at the time also pleaded guilty to the federal charges. Last week, a federal judge ruled that York had withdrawn his guilty plea to the federal charges, and York is now scheduled to go to trial on the federal charges in January.
York has not withdrawn his guilty plea to the state charges, though he has not been sentenced and could withdraw his plea before he is sentenced. But Bright said that as it stands now, he anticipates trying Johnson alone if she does not appeal or if the appellate courts continue to rule against her.
Johnson pleaded guilty in April to a reduced federal charge of having knowledge of a crime but not participating in the crime.
York and his followers moved from New York to Putnam County in 1993 to a 476-acre farm. There they erected numerous Egyptian-style structures, among them two pyramids and a sphinx, and York claimed to be an alien from the planet "Rizq."
York and Johnson were arrested in May 2002 after a number of children and adults who grew up in his sect came forward with allegations that York, Johnson and others had molested them.
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