Grand jury investigates Nuwaubian influence at jail

Athens, USA - Although the leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors religious sect is serving a 135-year sentence in a Colorado prison, a Clarke County grand jury is investigating the sect's influence on its jail and sheriff's department.

The grand jury has been examining the events that led to the firing of chief jailer Brett Hart by Sheriff Ira Edwards in the spring, several deputies told the Athens Banner-Herald.

Around the same time, Hart had been investigating whether Nuwaubian deputies were recruiting others _ including prisoners _ into the sect and if a deputy violated jail policy by corresponding with Dwight "Malachi" York, the leader of the predominantly black sect.

Hart said Edwards hired six Nuwaubian deputies, four of whom were former Macon police officers. Deputies at the county jail told the newspaper they've had concerns about which side Nuwaubian deputies would take if a fight broke out along racial lines at the jail.

Edwards said he's looked into allegations of wrongdoing concerning two deputies but found no policy violations.

York was sentenced to 135 years in federal prison in April 2004 for molesting 14 boys and girls whose parents were members of his group. He currently is in a federal maximum security prison in Colorado.

York founded the Nuwaubians in New York in the late 1960s and moved the sect to rural Putnam County in 1993.

After York was sentenced, the federal government seized the 476-acre Putnam County Nuwaubian compound in August 2004 and sold it in June 2005, turning over more than $500,000 to the county. Federal agents also seized about $1 million in property and cash in Athens.

In October, a federal appeals court upheld York's conviction and sentence. His attorney had argued that federal prosecutors improperly applied federal racketeering laws and the grand jury was tainted by pretrial publicity.

But the three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said York failed to show that the notoriety of his case "substantially influenced" the decision to indict him.

The judges also noted that the trial jury was instructed to consider each count of the indictment separately and acquitted York of two of the 13 counts.