June 2, 2002
By Robert Stacy McCain
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
They say they are descendants of ancient Egyptians and American Indians — even aliens from another galaxy — but they came from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Their leader once called himself the "Supreme Being," but he was actually an ex-convict and is in jail facing dozens of charges of child molestation.
After moving to the middle of Georgia in 1993, the people who called themselves Nuwaubians caused a stir in rural Putnam County. The black supremacist sect known as the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors built two 40-foot-tall pyramids on their 473-acre property and talked about a spaceship that would take them away in 2003.
An FBI report listed the group as a potential terrorist threat. The site that members called Tama-Re, or "Egypt of the West," was protected by armed guards. Putnam County residents feared the Nuwaubian compound would be the scene of "our own little Waco," ending in a violent showdown like the deadly 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian site in Texas did.
Those fears are eased. Nuwaubian leader Dwight York is in federal custody, charged with four counts of interstate transportation of minors for sex, and has also been indicted on 116 state charges involving child molestation.
Mr. York, 56, was arrested May 8 along with 33-year-old Kathy Johnson — witnesses describe her as the Nuwaubian leader's "main wife" — who is accused of aiding and abetting Mr. York in transporting minors from the group's former New York headquarters to the compound east of Eatonton, Ga.
But worries about a violent showdown at the Nuwaubian site were not groundless. In their raid on the compound May 8, federal agents seized 20 weapons, officials said. Ten guns were confiscated at two of Mr. York's homes in Athens and Milledgeville.
For a group that seems to have had no more than a few hundred members, the Nuwaubians had a remarkable influence on black culture and politics in the 1990s.
Through bookstores and Web sites, the Nuwaubians spread their doctrine within the black community and recruited young people from black colleges. At the center of it all was the "master teacher," who says he's written 460 books, who taught that whites were inferior and who said he was a native of the planet "Rizq" in the galaxy "Illyuwn."
Known by a variety of names and titles — including Dr. Malachi Z. York-El, Atume-Re and Chief Black Eagle — he was in fact Dwight York, who served time in a New York prison after being convicted in 1965 for assault, carrying a concealed weapon and resisting arrest.
Now accused by Georgia's state district attorney of repeatedly "molesting at least five victims, young girls and boys," Mr. York once had the outspoken support of prominent black leaders.
The Rev. Al Sharpton led a rally in 1999 in Eatonton, calling county officials "oppressors" for shutting down the group's unlicensed nightclub. In a rally in April 2000 at Tama-Re, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told a cheering crowd that the Nuwaubians were "living the American dream."
From convict to prophet
Dwight York, born June 26, 1945, was a criminal long before he became the Nuwaubian leader, and suspicions of criminal activity have followed his groups since the 1970s.
Mr. York was sentenced to probation in early 1964, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of raping a 13-year-old girl. But he was arrested again in October 1964, and his conviction in January 1965 for assault and other charges earned Mr. York a three-year sentence in state prison.
Paroled in October 1967, Mr. York joined the Black Panthers and in the early 1970s adopted the name Imam Isa Al Haadi Al Mahdi and founded his own Black Muslim sect, whose members dressed in white robes and became known as the Ansaru Allah Community.
As the leader of Ansaru Allah (Arabic for "Allah's helpers"), Mr. York also called himself Isa Muhammud and Abd Allh Idn Abu Bakr Muhammad. The Brooklyn-based group was variously known as Ansaar Pure Sufi and the Nubian Islamic Hebrews. The name changes were apparently accompanied by shifts in belief.
"Their ideology has changed a half a dozen times in the last four or five years," Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills says of the group.
Two things did not change in Mr. York's teachings, however: his insistence on his status as prophet or "savior" and an Afrocentric view of the greatness of black people and the inferiority of whites.
On his own Web site — www.egiptianmysteries.com — Mr. York declares that he studied at American University in Cairo, Egypt, and at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, and that his great-grandfather was the Grand Mahdi of Sudan. Mr. York once described himself as "the Supreme Being of This Day and Time, God in Flesh."
Black people — "wooly haired dark-skinned people," as Mr. York called them — are Nubians, "the original seed" and were the "original Egyptians," he wrote.
White people, Mr. York taught, are descended from the biblical Canaanites, their white skin caused by a genetic defect. One of Noah's sons, Ham, was frightened so badly, Mr. York wrote, that "it affected his genes and it came out in his fourth son, Canaan."
Flames of suspicion
Based in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, the Ansaru Allah Community expanded in the late 1970s and '80s. The group sought to purchase various Bushwick properties and, in some cases where the owners refused to sell, those properties were destroyed by fire. According to an FBI report that became public after Mr. York's group moved to Georgia, informants told police that Ansaru Allah members were responsible for at least three of those fires.
In April 1979, Bushwick activist Horace Greene, who had opposed Mr. York's group, was gunned down outside a community center. In 1998, informants told police he was killed by an Ansaru Allah member known as Hashim "The Warrior" Muhammad, a convicted murderer whose real name is Roy Savage.
In 1983, Mr. York purchased a large property in the foothills of New York's Catskill Mountains that was used as a rural retreat for the group. But conflicts in New York eventually prompted the move to Georgia in 1993.
Why would a Brooklyn-based Black Muslim group choose to move to rural Putnam County — population 14,137 in 1990 — where two-thirds of the people were white and almost all the residents, black and white, were evangelical Christians?
Mr. York has told reporters that it was because the county is home to Rock Eagle, an archaeological site created by prehistoric American Indians whom the Nuwaubians claimed as ancestors. Others have suggested that some Ansaru Allah members were Putnam County natives or had relatives there.
Whatever the reasons, on Jan. 15, 1993, Mr. York paid $975,000 for a 473-acre former game ranch on state Route 142. Soon his followers began arriving from New York, taking up residence in several mobile homes on the property.
'When we were cowboys'
During their first years in Georgia, the Nuwaubians wore cowboy hats and boots, and experienced little conflict with the locals in Putnam County.
"Back when we were cowboys, nobody minded. That didn't bother anyone," a Nuwaubian spokesman told writer Stephanie Ramage in 1999. "But when we became Egyptian, oh, they couldn't stand that."
Adopting Egyptian costumes and building pyramids and obelisks at their Tama-Re compound, the group flouted county laws by not obtaining building permits and refusing to let inspectors on the property.
Nuwaubians also became involved in local black community affairs. The newcomers took over the local brancch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and elected Nuwaubians to leadership posts.
Sheriff Sills was elected in 1996 and soon found himself in conflict with Mr. York's group. In April 1997, he helped the building inspector gain access to Tama-Re, where the inspector found violations of fire and building codes that resulted in a $45,000 fine against the Nuwaubians.
In early 1998, an unlicensed nightclub called Ramses opened on the Nuwaubian property. Sheriff Sills brought state and county officials to the club who found numerous violations and eventually shut the club down.
County officials filed a lawsuit in 1999 to prevent the Nuwaubians from using the Tama-Re property for anything besides residential or agricultural purposes. Mr. York missed a court appearance in June 1999 and was cited for contempt of court.
When Mr. York appeared a week later to answer the contempt charge, 500 Nuwaubians packed the courtroom and surrounded the courthouse. Mr. York went free.
Rumors and indictments
His group's disputes with Putnam County made headlines, but until the raid May 8, there was no public suggestion that Mr. York was a serial child molester.
Prosecutors say that raid was the result of an investigation that began in 1998. And they say Mr. York had been molesting children since he arrived in Georgia.
For years, rumors swirled around Putnam County that teen-age girls from the Nuwaubian group were giving birth in area hospitals, refusing to name their babies' fathers on birth certificates.
Eatonton lawyer Frank Ford told the Macon Telegraph that he had been warned that Mr. York "was having sex with 11-, 12- and 13-year-old girls and in some cases impregnating them." The child molestation charges against Mr. York make no mention of pregnancies, and authorities say they have no evidence to confirm those rumors.
The Nuwaubian lifestyle was long a source of public speculation. Some parents complained that their daughters had dropped out of college to join Mr. York's group and were not allowed to contact their families. "The typical recruitment is that the guys get the girls to come into the movement," said Sarah Wallace, an investigative reporter for New York's WABC-TV.
At a bail hearing, an FBI agent testified that Mr. York controlled every aspect of his followers' lives.
The state prosecutor in the York case, Ocmulgee Circuit District Attorney Fred Bright, said Georgia law prevents him from discussing the case beyond the charges in the indictment. That indictment specifies only that the children involved were under the statutory age in Georgia, which was 14 until 1995, when it was raised to 16. But at a bond hearing on the federal charges, an FBI agent testified that some victims were as young as 4.
Mr. York is charged with 74 counts of child molestation, 29 counts of aggravated child molestation, one count of rape, four counts of statutory rape, five counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of influencing a witness.
His main wife, Miss Johnson, is charged with four counts of child molestation and one count of aggravated child molestation. Also indicted were three other Nuwaubian women: Chaundra Lampkin and Kadijah Merritt are each charged with three counts of child molestation and two counts of aggravated child molestation; Esther Cole is charged with one count of child molestation.
A 'flawless' raid
In the federal indictment, Mr. York and Miss Johnson each are charged with violations of the Mann Act, a 1910 federal law that prohibits transporting minors across state lines for illegal sex. Two counts specify the transporting of minors from New York to Georgia in March and April of 1993. Two other counts involve trips from Georgia to Orlando, Fla in 1996.
Mr. York "made 20 trips to Disney World in the last four years where he took children," said U.S. Attorney Maxwell Wood, whose Macon office is prosecuting the federal charges. Mr. Wood said agents found $127,000 cash in Mr. York's Athens residence and $280,000 in cash at Tama-Re. Five children at the compound were taken into protective custody.
Mr. Wood credited Ted Jackson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta office, for the "precise, professional, flawless execution" of the operation May 8.
The Waco raid in 1993 went awry when agents tried to arrest leader David Koresh at the Branch Davidian compound, but FBI agents arrested the Nuwaubian leader before raiding the group's Putnam County headquarters. Mr. York and Miss Johnson were arrested at a grocery store in Milledgeville, 20 miles south of Eatonton. An hour later, 200 FBI agents and 80 sheriff's deputies from four counties stormed Tama-Re to execute a search warrant.
"I cannot praise the FBI enough," Sheriff Sills said of the May 8 raid. "They planned, planned, planned. [The raid] went absolutely according to plan, and not a single person was harmed in any way."
Mr. York's attorney, Leroy Johnson, told an Atlanta reporter that the jailed Nuwaubian leader "believes that he's been set up," blaming the arrest on "some forces at work who are anti-York." Mr. Johnson said that Mr. York "would not be surprised if Sills had some hand in discrediting and trying to get him out of Putnam County."
Supporters, including state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, have said the Nuwabians are targets of religious persecution. But the Georgia district attorney said his case, which he expects to go to trial this fall, has nothing to do with that.
"This indictment is not an indictment of Nuwaubians nor their way of life nor their religious feelings," Mr. Bright said. "This is an indictment against these defendants for violating the criminal laws of the state of Georgia for sexually molesting young children."
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