|Eatonton --- The child
molestation case against Nuwaubian leader Dwight York escalated Monday in state
and federal court. |
In Eatonton, a Putnam County grand jury
issued a 116-count indictment of the 56-year-old leader of the
United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a quasi-religious group whose 150
to 200 members live in a rural compound that features huge pyramids
and a large gate covered with hieroglyphics.
charged with 74 counts of child molestation, 29 counts of aggravated
child molestation and related charges, including one count of rape.
In Macon, an FBI agent testified at a bond hearing in U.S.
District Court that authorities have identified as many as 35
victims, whose age at the time of the alleged crimes ranged from 4
York is in federal custody after being arrested
Wednesday by FBI agents in Baldwin County as an army of federal and
local officers swooped down on the compound in Putnam County. York's
associate, Kathy Johnson, who was arrested with him on the federal
charges, also was named in five counts of the state indictment.
Three other members of the Nuwaubian group --- identified as
Chandra Lampkin, Kadijah Merritt and Esther Cole --- were indicted
on state charges of child molestation.
Fred Bright, district
attorney for the judicial circuit that includes Putnam County, said
the state indictment accuses York of molesting at least five
children repeatedly "and in just about every way imaginable."
The indictments crown a four-year investigation by the FBI
and the Putnam County sheriff's office. It began when a local social
service agency received anonymous allegations that children were
being sexually abused at the Nuwaubians' 400-acre ranch.
York and the Nuwaubians have frequently criticized Putnam
County authorities for what they contend is racial discrimination
Assistant District Attorney Dawn Baskin said
there were no ulterior motives to the state's charges.
"There's nothing political about child molestation," she
All the alleged crimes were committed at the Nuwaubian
compound, Bright said.
FBI agent Jalaine Ward testified at
the bond hearing in federal court in Macon regarding the scope of
the government's case against York.
York said to have ruled
with iron hand
The government has statements from
approximately 15 witnesses who testified that York sodomized and had
sexual intercourse with children, Ward testified. In some of these
encounters, the acts were photographed and videotaped, she said.
The agent's testimony depicted a long-standing pattern of
York's having sex with children within his community.
incidents started at his group's bases in New York and continued
after the sect moved in 1993 to a Putnam County farm and - -- in the
alleged acts that make this case a federal matter --- during an
estimated 15 to 20 trips to Disney World in Florida over the past
four years, investigators say.
"York controls everything
that goes on" at the compound, Ward said, summarizing witness
descriptions of life at the former cattle ranch, which the
Nuwaubians have decorated with Egyptian-style pyramids and statuary.
In some Nuwaubian literature, York is called the group's savior or
Ward said York controlled what and how much his
followers ate, how much money they were permitted, and whether they
could come and go at the compound.
The federal prosecutor
wants to deny York bail, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Claude Hicks
indicated he would not rule on that matter before today, when the
bond hearing resumes.
Hicks ruled that defense attorneys
could review the 50-page affidavit used to support York's arrest,
but he also gave prosecutors time to black out the names of victims
mentioned in the document.
Defense lawyer demands to see
Defense attorney Ed Garland of Atlanta argued he
should have access to unedited versions of the federal investigative
"We are here, really, in the dark," Garland told
the court. "If a confidential informant is also a victim, then they
are not entitled to be shielded."
Hicks rejected that
argument, but Garland renewed his demand for the documents as he
started to cross-examine Ward. It was then the hearing was adjourned
for the day.
In her testimony, the FBI agent said children
typically were separated from adults at the Nuwaubian compound. They
were not allowed contact with their natural parents without York's
permission, she said.
Witnesses have stated that Johnson,
York's associate, was an active participant in some of the sex acts
with the children, Ward said. Johnson brought children to York for
sex and instructed them on sexual techniques, the agent said.
Ward also testified that some of the children were
intimidated and threatened by York. One of the females who accused
York said he "threatened to shoot her in the head" if she reported
the sexual abuse to authorities, Ward said.
In a search of
the farm conducted last week during the massive raid by authorities,
federal agents confiscated more than 30 weapons, about a dozen of
which were found in York's house, Ward testified.
United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors founder Dwight
York is escorted
from federal court in Macon. / ROBERT SEAY /
Kathy Johnson is escorted from the
federal courthouse in Macon. She
is accused of participating in
the sexual abuse of children. /
DANIEL BARRY / Assocaited