Brunswick -- A woman testifying under an immunity agreement in the child molestation trial of cult leader Malachi York said Thursday that he began having sex with her when she was 15, and as an adult she recruited and groomed younger victims for him.
One of those alleged victims, a male now 23, also testified and said York had sex with him when he was 13. He and the woman also said they had sex together with York. The woman, now 28, is the older sister of the first alleged victim to testify.
"A lot of things went on that I didn't think were wrong because that was just the way we lived," she said.
She spent nearly seven hours on the witness stand beginning Wednesday, and gave a detailed account of her life in York's cult, the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, though it was under a different name when she entered the group as a youngster in Brooklyn.
Sexual activity with York, she said, began when the group was in Sullivan County, N.Y., then she took on a recruiting role when they moved to a 467-acre neo-Egyptian compound in Putnam County in 1993. She said York first brought her and several other young girls to the compound before moving the rest of the group.
Like her sister and the male witness, she described squalid living conditions for children, who were kept in separate buildings from their parents. One girl fell through the floor when it collapsed while she was taking a shower, and the buildings were infested with mice, she said.
But she didn't consider leaving, and at one time even warned her younger sister against leaving, because she said York taught that the world outside the compound was dangerous and evil.
"He would tell us once we leave the grounds, there is some hexagon that lights up around the planet and lets the demons know to attack us," she said. The male who testified said he was 13 when one night he entered a trailer that York sometimes occupied away from his opulent home on the compound. An older girl was in the trailer, he said, and the two started having sex in front of York, who began masturbating. He said York later had sex with him. The witness was still on the stand when the proceedings ended for the day and will return this morning.
The woman described an incident in which she, York and another 14- or 15-year-old male had sex in a bedroom of a building near York's home. The prosecution had earlier shown a photo of that room, which had a sunken, bathtub-shaped sauna at the end of the bed.
The woman said she had sex in the sauna and that York told them to also have sex on the bed. She identified a request form she filled out while she was on the compound. The forms, she said, were required for such basic items as toiletries and sanitary napkins. Some parents had to use towels for diapers, she said. No one was ever paid for work, and all money earned by trinkets and other items sold by the group went to York, the woman said.
Food was so poor, according to the woman, that at one time she was admitted to intensive care because a potassium deficiency left her virtually paralyzed. Doctors ordered her to eat certain foods which she said she sometimes got but usually didn't.
Children who agreed to have sex with York would often be invited to his house, where food and living conditions were much better, she said.
According to the woman, York once told her to fondle a male toddler.
"(York) said his aunt did that to him when he was a boy," the woman said.
After she testified, the government called a string of FBI agents to identify numerous items of evidence they recovered from a search of York's compound.
Though the contents of several boxes were not discussed, one agent identified a briefcase found in York's home as having contained $279,450. Another agent identified a case of DVDs as containing several pornographic movies, including such titles as Debbie Does Dallas. He said the case was recovered from York's bedroom.
The woman said she was told that pornographic videos made of children on the compound were destroyed by York's son.
The woman said she left the compound three years ago because she was told to get a job outside the compound or get kicked out. The male said he was kicked out when he was 19 after a guard accused him of not doing any work. He said it was late at night and no one else was working, but he had no objection to the order to leave.
York, 58, is facing 13 counts of child molestation and racketeering.