EATONTON, Ga. -- The leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors pleaded guilty Friday to 77 counts of sex crimes against children.
Malachi York signed a plea agreement before Putnam County Superior Court Judge William Prior that recommends a 15 year sentence in prison. York also will serve 35 years probation as an admitted sex offender.
A formal sentencing date has not been announced.
The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors is a predominantly black group that refers to York as "the master teacher."
It began as an Islamic sect in the early 1970s in Brooklyn, N.Y. When York and his followers moved to Putnam County 10 years ago, the group claimed York was an extraterrestrial.
Followers have built pyramids and other ancient Egyptian-style structures at the group's 476-acre village and have often been at odds with county officials over building and zoning issues.
York listened to District Attorney Fred Bright read the 40 counts of aggravated child molestation, 34 counts of child molestation, one count of child exploitation and two counts of influencing witnesses involving 13 child victims.
Each count detailed York's behavior with the children, including acts of oral sex, sexual intercourse and sodomy.
Prosecutors said the victims were emotionally and physically ready to confront York in court if the case had gone to trial.
"One child ... was upset at the prospect that she wouldn't be able to tell Mr. York in the presence of the court that she wasn't afraid," Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin told the court. "It would take days to truly understand the pain inflicted upon these victims."
Usually, about 200 of York's followers attend his court hearings, but only two showed up Friday. They declined to comment.
Manubir Arora, one of York's attorneys, said the plea agreement was York's best option.
"(Prosecutors) made a very good offer," Arora said. "It was something he had to do that was in his best interest."
With good behavior, York could be eligible for parole in 12 years and 9 months, Bright said, adding that he's satisfied with the plea agreement.
"He'll be 69, 70 years old when he may be eligible," he said. "That could be the rest of his natural life, or at least a good chunk of it."
York had previously pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of unlawful transport of minors for the purpose of engaging in sex acts and one count of trying to evade financial reporting requirements. He will serve the federal sentence concurrently with state sentence he receives.