DFACS takes custody of 5 Nuwaubian
Macon Telegraph/May 10, 2002
By Rob Peecher
Eatonton --The Putnam County Department of Family and
Children Services took five children into protective custody
during Wednesday's law enforcement raid at the United
Nuwaubian Nation of Moors village.
The four girls and one boy taken into protective custody
range in age from 13 to 16 years old, Putnam County Sheriff
Howard Sills said.
"We received information about these five children that was
corroborated by others that caused us to seek out the
protective order," Sills said. "We had an order from the
Juvenile Court signed (by a judge) prior to going on the
compound. The children, we suspect, are victims of child
Agents of the FBI, Putnam County sheriff's deputies and
deputies from other sheriff's offices raided the village at
404 Shady Dale Road just after federal officers took
Nuwaubian leader Malachi York, 56, and his wife, Kathy
Johnson, 33, into custody in Baldwin County.
York and Johnson, who pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon
in a federal Magistrate Court, were arrested on warrants
accusing them of transporting children for sexual purposes.
York is accused in all four counts of the federal indictment
and Johnson in one.
Additional state warrants accuse York of 10 counts of
aggravated child molestation and Johnson with one count of
aggravated child molestation. Those state warrants have not
yet been served.
Middle District of Georgia U.S. Magistrate Judge Claude W.
Hicks Jr. said the only possible plea for York and Johnson
to enter during Thursday's hearing was not guilty, and Hicks
said he will consider bond for the two in a hearing
scheduled for Monday.
Hicks also provided York and Johnson with prison sentence
ranges calculated by federal probation officers and based on
federal sentencing guidelines. Johnson faces a sentence of
between five years, 10 months and seven years, three months.
York faces a sentence of between 11 years, three months and
14 years in a federal prison. Hicks added, though, that the
ranges could change based on a review of the circumstances.
About a dozen of York's supporters attended the hearing, and
one woman let out an audible gasp as York and Johnson were
both led into the courtroom with restraints on their wrists
During Thursday's hearing, York and Johnson both were
represented by former state Sen. Leroy Johnson and his
associate attorney Karen Haines. Hicks said he warns all
co-defendants who come before him that using one attorney to
represent both defendants has "pitfalls," as "competing
interests" may arise during the course of the trial.
Wednesday's raid was prompted by state and federal search
warrants giving law officers the authority to take control
of the property and search it, but that search ended
abruptly when authorities received information that
Nuwaubians were preparing to retake the village by force,
"The search was probably not as thorough as it could have
been," Sills said. "The FBI received direct information that
the Nuwaubians were going to arm themselves, mass and try to
retake the compound. I immediately blocked the road again,
and it was reported to me that we had a couple hundred of
them massed at either side of the roadblocks."
Sills said that although he felt confident that the law
enforcement presence at the village, which at that time
consisted of about half of some 150 federal and local
officers involved in the initial raid, could have prevailed
in a confrontation, it would have meant "unnecessary
Authorities decided to conclude their search rather than
risk a confrontation, Sills said.
Sills said he saw "maybe one-50th" of the potential evidence
taken from the property, but he was aware of hundreds of
videotapes being confiscated, computers and numerous
weapons, ranging from handguns to assault rifles.
"In York's bedroom alone, there were at least three assault
rifles and other assorted handguns and what I would call
regular long guns," Sills said. "In their barn where the men
live, they had a lot of (weapons) in it."
The evidence taken from the village is still in federal
custody and has to be examined to determine its value, Sills
Omer Reid, president of the Baldwin County chapter of the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
attended Thursday's hearing and reiterated statements made
by some of York's supporters Wednesday.
"Nothing has been proven," Reid said. "There are only
allegations ... I don't think (York's) character should be
demeaned in any way."
Sills rebuked criticism by some of York's supporters that
the raid was politically motivated or had to do with a
desire on his part to "destroy the Nuwaubians."
"We have victims of what our society has always considered
to be one of the most deplorable acts," Sills said. "The
victims came to us. The victims tried to get help.
"I am charged with the duty to protect the lives, property
and morals of the people of this county. Now, if a person
charged with that duty carries out that duty Ð if that is in
some way a vendetta or harassment, then those people need to
examine their morals, if that's what they think."