Nuwaubians retain control of land for now

A federal judge has allowed members of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors to retain control of $1.7 million in land until the court decides whether their leader, convicted child molester Malachi York, will get a new trial.

In a hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal said there was no evidence that anyone other than York owned the land, but he agreed to delay the final ruling on whether federal officials could seize the property.

York was sentenced in April to 135 years in federal prison after his January conviction on child molestation and racketeering charges. Defense attorneys have filed a motion for a new trial and a notice of intent to appeal the conviction.

Prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit against York last year to seize his property and more than $430,000 in cash.

But Nuwaubian members claimed the land — including the quasi-religious sect's 476-acre compound in Putnam County and York's $750,000 house in Athens — belongs to them and not York.

Anthony Evans, who described himself as an elder of the Nuwaubian church, testified Wednesday that he and two others are the legal owners of the Putnam County property, where a number of members still reside.

"Dr. York signed it over to us, and we tried to keep it in our hands and take care of it," Evans said.

Another group called the York Family Partnership claimed it owns the Athens home.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Verda Colvin argued ownership of the Putnam County property was never legally transferred because Evans and other members of the group never filed the required tax documents.

Colvin also said the York Family Partnership was set up simply as an attempt to shelter assets from forfeiture.

"The Athens property was not transferred until after York's arrest," she said. "And at that time, Malachi York still had 99 percent of the ownership in that property."