Leader of sect back in Miami

South Florida Sun-Sentinel/September 26, 2001
By Jeff Shields

Yahweh Ben Yahweh, the leader of a religious sect whose members are blamed for killing 14 people in his name, was released from prison Tuesday and returned to Miami after 10 years in federal prison.

Yahweh, 65, touched down in a private jet at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, after securing his release by paying more than $16,000 in fines earlier in the day.

Although scheduled for release from prison Aug. 17, Yahweh had been arguing against the conditions of his parole, which prevent him from contact with his Nation of Yahweh without permission from the U.S. Parole Commission.

Yahweh and six of his followers were convicted in 1992 of a racketeering conspiracy between 1980 and 1986 in which prosecutors said Yahweh directed followers to commit 14 murders, two attempted murders and the firebombing of a Delray Beach neighborhood. Several of the victims were decapitated with a machete and others had their ears cut off as proof of the slayings.

Yahweh, born Hulon Mitchell Jr. and raised in Oklahoma, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the conspiracy, which the trial judge, U.S. Judge Norman Roettger called "one of the most violent cases" ever tried in federal court.

Yahweh was sentenced under previous guidelines that provided a maximum of 20 years in prison.

If convicted today, Yahweh would face up to life in prison for the same crime and would not be eligible for early release.

Although the Parole Commission opposed his release after less than 11 years because of the nature of his crime, Yahweh was eligible for parole for his good behavior while in custody.

Jayne Weintraub, who successfully defended Yahweh against murder charges in state court in 1992, said Yahweh paid his fine after receiving permission from the Parole Commission to move into a private house in Miami-Dade that would be paid for by his supporters until he finds a job.

Weintraub would not disclose the location of Yahweh's new home for security reasons.

"There are a lot of crazy people that would try to kill any spiritual leader,'' Weintraub said.

Yahweh, whose full name means "God, son of God," moved to Miami in 1979 and set up the Nation of Yahweh, whose followers believe him to be the God of Abraham as detailed in the Bible.

He taught that blacks were the true Jews and that he had been chosen to lead blacks from oppression.

His release from Ray Brook federal prison in New York state was delayed while his attorney, Jon May, fought the conditions of his parole.

May argued, unsuccessfully, that the conditions violated Yahweh's freedom of speech and religion under First Amendment.

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