Originally created 05/16/02

Grand jury indicts Nuwaubian leader



EATONTON, Ga. - Dwight "Malachi" York preyed on children younger than 10, forcing them to commit all manner of sex acts with himself and others, and in some cases, videotaping the acts, a sweeping 120-count indictment returned by a Putnam County grand jury alleges.

Mr. York, the 56-year-old leader of the quasi-religious Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, faces one count of rape, 74 counts of child molestation and 29 counts of aggravated child molestation involving five alleged victims, both male and female.

In addition, his common-law wife, Kathy Johnson, and Nuwaubian members Chandra Lampkin, Kadijah Merritt and Esther Cole, are charged with child molestation.

"It's a voluminous case," Putnam County District Attorney Fred Bright said."We intent to prosecute it to the fullest extent under the law."

The indictment comes on the heels of Mr. York's arrest last week on four federal charges of transporting minors over state lines for purposes of sex. Mr. York remained in federal custody after being denied bail in U.S. Magistrate Court in Macon; Ms. Johnson was granted $75,000 bond.

Sheriff Sills said his office first heard allegations of child molestation at the rural Nuwaubian compound in 1998. His investigators and the FBI spent the next four years gathering information, and a break in the case came last May when a victim came forward, he said.

"That brought the investigation into a new light," he said.

All the acts are alleged to have occurred at Mr. York's gated compound, which Sheriff Sills likened to a "warehouse situation," with subpar, unventilated living quarters containing "room after room" of bunk beds. He said as many as 50 children lived in the compound. Five were taken into protective custody after last week's raid by federal agents and sheriff's officers.

The grand jury heard from four alleged victims Monday before returning the indictments. Mr. York is accused of molesting one victim as many as 30 times between 1995 and 2000, starting when the girl was younger than 14, according to the indictments. Another victim, a boy, is believed by authorities to have been molested at least 27 times, also starting in 1993 when he was younger than 14. Mr. Bright said the youngest victims were under the age of 10.

Mr. York had sex with adults in the presence of children, made children engage in sex acts with others and even enticed children into having sex with other minors, the 53-page indictment alleges.

Despite the allegations of Mr. York videotaping some of the acts, Sheriff Sills said he had no evidence Mr. York was in the business of distributing child pornography.

Mr. York has ties to Athens, where he owns a $525,000 home off Timothy Road and where followers planned to open a bookstore on West Broad Street. A search of the home on Mansfield Court by FBI agents turned up some $125,000 in cash, U.S. Attorney Maxwell Wood said.

Asked whether evidence was uncovered that Mr. York had committed crimes in other jurisdictions such as Clarke County, the Putnam County sheriff said,"We are aware of other criminal activity elsewhere, and we're passing that information along to the appropriate authorities."