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Yahweh Ben Yahweh Trial: 1992

A Criminal Or A Role Model?, Arrest And Indictment, Jury Deadlocks On Several Charges

Defendants: Yahweh Ben Yahweh (Hulon Mitchell); Codefendants (15 in all): Mikael, Absalom, Jesee Obed, Abiri, Isaiah Solomon, Hezion, Hoseah Isaac, Enoch, Aher, Job, Amri, Dan, Ahinadab, Sister Judith (who was Yahweh's second in command), Ahaz (all codefendants had "Israel" as their surname)
Crimes Charged: Conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering
Chief Defense Lawyer: Alcee Hastings
Chief Prosecutor: Richard Scruggs
Judge: Norman Roettger
Place: Miami, Florida
Date of Trial: January 2-May 28, 1992
Verdicts: Yahweh and Job, Amri, Dan, Ahinadab, Sister Judith, and Ahaz guilty of conspiracy; other defendants acquitted
Sentences: Yahweh: 18 years in prison; Job, Amri, Dan, Ahinadab, Sister Judith, and Ahaz: 15-16.5 years imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: This conviction for conspiracy imprisoned the leader of a black messianic cult, Yahweh Ben Yahweh (born Hulon Mitchell), and exposed a series of crimes committed by members of the cult at his direction. When the state of Florida refused to prosecute, federal prosecutors brought charges against the cult leader and members under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, the first time the law was employed against a religious organization. Although at least 15 gruesome murders were charged, the complex case resulted in relatively light sentences against the leader and six of his followers, with the others being acquitted.

Hulon Mitchell was born in 1935 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, the son of a Holiness Pentecostal preacher. He served in the air force after graduating high school and earned a B.A. in psychology from Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. In 1965 he earned an MA degree in economics from Atlanta University. In 1967, he became a leader in the branch of the Nation of Islam in Atlanta, Georgia, but Elijah Muhammad soon removed him from his post due to complaints of sexual misconduct and misuse of funds. Mitchell established his own cult in Miami, Florida, in the early 1980s, and over a period of years, acquired a devoted following of several hundred members. His followers lived in a building owned by the religion that they named Liberty City, and turned over their paychecks and welfare checks to the organization. Yahweh Ben Yahweh (God son of God) as Mitchell called himself, appeared to seek absolute power over his followers, often with considerable success.

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