Seven Macon police officers who called themselves supporters of convicted child molester and cult-leader Malachi York resigned from the force Monday, saying Mayor Jack Ellis refused to help them fight the "conspiracy" against York.
City officials said there is nothing they could do to help the former city employees with York's case. York was sentenced last week to 135 years in federal prison after being convicted in January on multiple counts of child molestation and racketeering.
Macon Police Chief Rodney Monroe said seven of his officers, along with an officer in training and a firefighter, resigned.
"I've accepted their resignations, although I would not like to see them go," Monroe said. "Each one of those officers have served the department and the city well."
The officers said they've been affiliated for various lengths of time with York and the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a quasi-religious group that began as an Islamic sect in the early 1970s in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Former officer Joseph Hibner said they have new information that proves York's innocence, but city officials and the media refuse to listen.
"We've been trying to tell the city of Macon and the world at large about this new evidence," Hibner said. "We know for a fact that it was a conspiracy against Malachi York."
Hibner said he and another officer were scheduled to meet with Ellis last Thursday, but the mayor refused to meet with them.
Representatives from Ellis' office said the mayor was out of town and could not be reached for comment Monday. City Council President Anita Ponder said there is nothing the city can do to help the officers exonerate York.
"The York situation is a federal case," and must be appealed through the federal courts, Ponder said. "As a city, I don't think there is anything we can do to help them."
Monroe said one of the officers investigated crimes against children, and another was involved in the Weed and Seed initiative, a federal program aimed at cleaning up rough neighborhoods. He said all of the officers had good records.
In a statement released by the group Monday, Hibner said they could no longer work in the city of Macon because city leaders refused to support them.
"The reason for resignation is that we will not continue to risk our lives in support of a city and mayor that turns their back to obvious injustices," Hibner said. "A taped confession came into our possession, and we tried to bring this evidence of criminal activity to their attention ... The City of Macon and their biased media affiliates are aiding the prosecution in hiding the truth from the public."
Last Friday, The Telegraph reported that a woman who originally testified that she was molested by York is now saying she was coerced into testifying by one of York's sons. This woman, who lives in New York, traveled to Georgia on Friday but was not able to testify on York's behalf.
Monroe said it was common knowledge many of the officers were Nuwaubians, but there was no evidence that affiliation affected their work. He said there is nothing the department could do to keep Nuwaubians from becoming police officers.
"You can't discriminate against a person because of their religion," Monroe said. "There was never any indication the officers were involved in any wrongdoing or did anything improper. We're talking about individuals who are associated with a particular religious group. That doesn't mean they have done anything wrong."
Monroe, who is Catholic, compared the situation to Catholics who still support the pope and the church although several priests have been convicted of molesting children.
Monroe said the resignations caused a large hole in the department that will take about four months to fill. Because most of the officers worked in specialized units, Monroe said the resignations shouldn't cause a delay in the presence of officers on the streets. There are currently 300 police officers in the Macon police department.
"We've been talking about holding two training classes at the same time to make up for the loss," Monroe said.
Hibner said more than 4,000 Nuwaubians moved to Macon at Ellis' request several years ago and have become productive members of the community. He said many Nuwaubians are not what the public perceives them to be.
"We're just like everyone else ... We go to work and do our jobs, and we have families to support," Hibner said. "We are just the first to resign. ... There will be others."
Ponder said she didn't know of Ellis requesting any group of people to move to Macon.
"I welcome any kind of growth, but I've never heard of anything like this," Ponder said.
Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Jimmy Hartley said he didn't realize Ranford Roper Jr. was a Nuwaubian, but the chief said Roper was a good firefighter.
"I didn't know until he handed in his resignation today," Hartley said.
When York founded the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors in the early 1970s, the group was known as the Nubian Islamic Hebrews and was an Islamic sect. In the 1980s, the group moved its base from the Bushwick Avenue neighborhood in Brooklyn to a camp outside Liberty, N.Y., in the Catskill Mountains.
In 1993, York and his followers moved to Putnam County, where York claimed to be from another planet. The Nuwaubians erected Egyptian-style statues and pyramids on the compound, often without building permits. The county sued York and some of his followers over the illegal buildings.
In May 2002, after a lengthy investigation into allegations that York was molesting children in the compound, officials from the Putnam County Sheriff's Office and the FBI arrested York at a grocery store in Milledgeville, then raided the group's compound.
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