US judge will not interfere in parole process of ex-cult leader

The Associated Press/October 16, 2006

Miami -- A judge has ruled not to interfere with a decision on whether cult leader and convicted killer Yahweh Ben Yahweh's parole should be terminated because he has advanced cancer.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke on Oct. 10 denied a motion Yahweh filed requesting that she order the federal Parole Commission to quickly make a decision on whether to terminate parole in his case, a court order said.

Cooke said Yahweh's hearing, which is scheduled at a Miami Lakes, Florida, office Thursday, is quick enough and within a "reasonable three weeks after Mr. Yahweh became eligible for such a hearing," the order said.

Yahweh, who is linked to nearly two dozen gruesome killings in the 1980s, said he wants to die with dignity at home in the Miami area, according to a motion filed earlier this month.

Yahweh was born Hulon Mitchell Jr. in Oklahoma and changed his name to the Hebrew words for "God, son of God." He served 11 years of an 18-year federal prison sentence for a racketeering conviction stemming from his role in up to 23 murders, some involving beheadings and severed ears and fingers.

He was once head of the Nation of Yahweh, boasting hundreds of followers who often dressed completely in white and who once won praise for rehabilitating blighted Miami neighborhoods. Yahweh, a self-proclaimed "Black Messiah," preached a brand of racial and religious separatism for blacks and later was accused of sending close followers to kill "white devils" and bring back body parts as proof.

A hearing officer is scheduled to consider Yahweh's case, which would be followed by a recommendation to the commission itself before a final decision is made.

An attorney for Yahweh said the process could take awhile.

"I'm worried that the parole commission ... could be busy and might not give us a ruling for a very long time," his attorney Jayne Weintraub said Monday. "We want an expedited ruling. We are concerned that time is of the essence and we want him to be free at last in every sense of the word."

Yahweh, now frail and unable to walk from cancer complications, is not a danger to the community and does not pose a flight risk, Weintraub has said.

Yahweh was released from prison on parole on Sept. 26, 2001. His lawyers argue that under federal law his parole should be concluded because he has followed all the restrictions — including no contact with his former followers — and has not been involved in any criminal activity in the past five years.

The law, however, gives the Parole Commission discretion on whether to end parole after five years — it is not automatic.

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