Sale of Nuwaubian compound considered

A psychology professor testified Friday that it could take years before the victims of cult leader Malachi York recover from sexual abuse.

The testimony came during a hearing to determine if York will have to pay the 13 victims money for psychological treatment. Federal Judge Ashley Royal ended the hearing after a question was raised about the testimony of a female victim who testified she'd been molested by York for eight years, but now says she wasn't victimized at all.

The judge said he would rule on the matter at a later date.

Richard Elliott, who teaches at the Mercer University School of Medicine, estimated it would take at least $606,000 to pay for psychological and medical treatment for the 13 men and women abused by York and his followers. It could cost more if hospitalization is needed, he said.

U.S. Attorney Max Wood said this money could come from the sale of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors property in Putnam County and Athens and $400,000 in cash seized when the property was searched in 2002.

Friday, a group of about 12 men stood guard outside the 476-acre compound, which features pyramids, a sphinx and other bizarre structures; Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills says fewer than 50 people currently live at the property, formerly home to hundreds.

Wood said it was too early to tell when a hearing would be held to determine ownership of the property.

Thursday, York was sentenced in federal court to 135 years in federal prison after being convicted in January of child molestation and racketeering. At one point during the hearing Friday, York jumped up and started shouting at the judge.

"What is the court afraid of?" York said. "Why is the court afraid to let the truth come out ... that's not justice."

York founded the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors in the early 1970s in Brooklyn, N.Y. The group was then known as the Nubian Islamic Hebrews and was an Islamic sect. In the 1980s, the group moved its base from the Bushwick Avenue neighborhood in Brooklyn to a camp outside Liberty, N.Y., in the Catskill Mountains. In 1993, York and his followers moved to Putnam County, where York claimed to be from another planet.

Beginning in 1998, the Nuwaubians and Putnam County officials engaged in a public battle over county zoning requirements. That case has never been settled. The Nuwaubians erected Egyptian-style statues and pyramids on the compound, often without building permits. The county sued York and some of his followers over the illegal buildings.

But in May 2002, after a lengthy investigation into allegations that York was molesting children in the compound, officials from the Putnam County Sheriff's Office and the FBI arrested York at a grocery store in Milledgeville, then raided the group's compound.

Margaret Holder, who lives about a half-mile from the Putnam County compound, said the Nuwaubians have always been good neighbors. Over the years, she has seen thousands of people descend on the compound for special events.

"Well, it was kinda strange seeing pyramids in Putnam County," Holder, 58, said Friday. "Any of them that I've ever talked to, they've talked intelligently with better English than I have. But deep down, I always knew there was something not quite right going on there."

Holder's mother, 82-year-old Ruby Wilson, had permission to walk through the complex once.

"It's an amazing place in there," Wilson said. "I can remember when they used to play and sing and have loud music. They don't do that no more since he went away."

In court Friday, Elliott, who evaluated York's victims through evidence provided by federal prosecutors, said many of them had been ostracized from family members and felt alone. He said many considered York a father figure and might deny they were ever abused.

Elliott said the money would go to pay for a psychological evaluation, weekly counseling sessions, medication and medical treatment, if needed. It also would pay for someone to annually review the cases.

"There is no single therapy that will work in this case," Elliott said. "All of these victims are different. There are some who admit the abuse and some who deny it ever happened ... That is not uncommon in these type situations."

During the hearing Friday, defense attorney Jonathan Marks asked Royal to hear testimony from three women - all of whom claim they were not molested by York and don't suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which Elliott said some of York's victims were suffering from.

Royal, who presided over York's January trial in Brunswick, ruled that testimony from two of the women would not be heard because it was similar to evidence given during the trial. The judge ended the hearing after a question came up about the third witnesses - a woman York's supporters said has recanted her original testimony and could prove his innocence.