B R U N S W I C K, Ga., Jan. 8 -- Former members of the so-called Nuwaubian cult told jurors at a trial of their former spiritual leader that he groomed them for sex when they were just young girls.
As the trial of Malachi York got under way this week, a series of former female cult members shared disturbing allegations of molestation.
One former member, now 18, told jurors that York, 58, began molesting her when she was just 8 years old.
York, once a Muslim cleric in Brooklyn, is on trial for molesting up to 13 girls and boys and bringing them to the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors compound in rural Putnam County, Ga., for sex.
York faces 13 federal counts of child molestation and racketeering for using his power as leader of the Nuwaubians to have sex with children between the ages of 5 and 17.
The trial could last up to three weeks. If convicted, York could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.
Leader Allegedly Lured Girls with Privileges
Another unnamed witness, now 28, alleges York methodically broke down girls' inhibitions as he prepared them for sex with him.
The former Nuwaubian cult member said York would first give the girls special privileges, such as soda, pizza and TV. Then the girls would be moved on to pornographic movies and sex toys in preparation for sex with York, she charged.
The alleged victim, who was then just 13 years old, left the Nuwaubian compound in Georgia in 2000 and later helped her sister escape.
The witness said the girls were told it was traditional for members of the group to have sex with the leader of the group so they could learn about intercourse and later please their husbands.
'Seen as God-Like Figure'
Attorneys for the self-proclaimed "messiah" say he is simply being persecuted for his group's troubled history with local authorities.
"What I feel the government is trying to do is indict the organization and not the individual," said York's defense attorney Adrian Patrick.