Jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday in Nuwaubian cult leader Malachi Yorks child molestation case.
York, who moved the quasi-religious United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors from New York to a central Georgia farm in 1993, faces 13 federal counts of molestation and racketeering. A plea bargain nearly a year ago was rejected by a judge who said the proposed 15-year prison sentence was too lenient.
The trial was moved 225 miles from Macon to Brunswick because of pretrial publicity. It could be affected by Nuwaubian supporters dressed in American Indian garb. Hundreds of protesters have turned out to many of Yorks court hearings, sometimes beating drums or handing out anti-government literature.
U.S. District Court Judge Ashley Royal has closed the proceedings to all but the media and those involved in the case to prevent outburts from Yorks followers and banned protests outside the courtroom.
York, 58, aka Chief Black Thunderbird Eagle, has unsuccessfully argued he has American Indian heritage and should not be judged by the U.S. court system. Prosecutors have said they plan to make a case that York used his status as a religious leader for sex and money, enriching himself, marrying several women and abusing young girls who were part of his sect.
York has maintained hes being unfairly prosecuted because of a vendetta by small-town authorities who dislike the mostly black members of his cult for their unusual practices and a neo-Egyptian compound that includes pyramid-like structures complete with hieroglyphics.