Feds file motion to drop case against York's 'wife'

Federal prosecutors filed a motion Wednesday to drop their case against Kathy Johnson, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to state charges of child molestation.

U.S. Attorney Max Wood said the motion was filed in the Johnson case in order to help settle the state's case against Johnson.

Johnson, who was considered by prosecutors to be Malachi York's "main wife" and one of the female leaders of the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Putnam County Superior Court to seven counts of child molestation.

"We have cooperated with the (Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit) district attorney's office throughout this case and we wanted to make sure their case was successful," Wood said.

As part of a plea agreement with state prosecutors, Johnson's attorney Brian Steel asked that the federal case against his client be dropped.

"If the federal case is not dropped, we will withdraw this guilty plea and move forward for trial," Steel said in Superior Court Tuesday.

Johnson, 35, was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison, of which two years would have to be served and the remainder served on probation. After her release from prison, Johnson will be banished from all Georgia counties except Clayton.

State law requires any person who is banished to be allowed to live in one Georgia county. Prosecutors chose Clayton because that is where the Atlanta airport is located.

Since Johnson was sentenced Tuesday as a first offender, she doesn't have to register as a sex offender. But if Johnson fails to abide by the terms of her probation, state prosecutors said she could serve up to 140 years in prison.

"If she does one thing wrong, she'll be brought back to Georgia and we'll bring her back in front of the judge," Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit assistant prosecutor Dawn Baskin said Tuesday. "She was sentenced to 20 years in prison on each of these charges, and we would ask for the full sentence if she breaks the law."

Johnson was scheduled to be sentenced today on a federal charge of "misprison of a felony," a charge that she had knowledge York transported and molested a child. She pleaded guilty in the federal case in April 2003 and could face a six-month federal prison sentence.

"We are very pleased with the (state) sentence because it was more than she would have served in our case," Wood said.

Tuesday, Johnson admitted to molesting and helping York molest four children, ages 8 to 12. Prosecutors said Johnson participated in the crimes to maintain favor with York.

"She would bring the children to York's bedroom," Baskin said Tuesday. "It was a very detailed process they went through ... but we don't believe (Johnson) was a pedophile. ... If she was sitting next to a child, her first thought would not be to molest that child."

Johnson was one of four women arrested with York in 2002 on child molestation charges. Two of the other women received probated sentences after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated child molestation charges. A criminal case against the fourth woman is still pending in Putnam County Superior Court, Baskin said.

York is scheduled to appear in federal court next week to be sentenced on federal charges. He was convicted in January on 10 counts of child molestation and racketeering and could face up to 30 years in federal prison.

York, 58, began his organization in 1967 in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a Muslim community. He later moved it to upstate New York, then to Putnam County in 1993. The group's ideology has undergone several shifts, claiming ties at various times to Christians, Jews, ancient Egyptians, cowboys and American Indians. At one time York claimed to be an alien from another planet.

Prosecutors said Johnson met York in New York and was one of the first people to move to Putnam County.