Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Yaweh ben Yahweh Cult

U.S. v. God, Son of God

Federal judge Norman Roetgger
Federal judge Norman Roetgger
The case was finally tried in 1992 at the U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale. The presiding judge, Norman Roetgger, called it the most violent case heard by a federal court. Fearing Mitchell's followers might pull a stunt, the feds secured the streets around the courthouse with SWAT teams.

Over the objections of the defendants' lawyers, the jury was shown 30-by-40-inch photos of some of the victims, including Aston Green's torso and severed head, to illustrate the extent of the cult's savagery.

Dissenters who had suffered in silence for years finally had their day in court and provided lurid details of the cult's inner workings. One man told the jury how he lost his sense of self after working long hours and not sleeping or eating enough.

"I saw my own children starving," he testified. "I was beaten. He (Mitchell) had sex with almost every woman in the temple, including my wife."

Robert Rozier under arrest
Robert Rozier under arrest
As more than a dozen Judases took the witness stand, Mitchell kept a poker face. Mildred Banks testified with a scarf hiding the scar where his thugs had slit her throat. Robert Rozier, released from prison for the occasion, recounted his six murders for Yahweh in cold detail. He admitted to stabbing a seventh man to death on his own accord, a Cuban panhandler who wouldn't leave him alone.

Although witnesses testified at length about the murder of dissidents and "white devils," the prosecution could not prove that Mitchell ordered the deaths.

The case of the United States v. God, son of God got even weirder when Mitchell himself took the stand. He identified himself as the "grand master of the celestial lodge, the architect of the universe" and denied everything. His religion was about love, he said, not death.

After a decade-long investigation, a year and half of court dates and 160 witnesses, the ethnically diverse jury handed down the verdict. The prosecution was stunned: the panel acquitted seven disciples, convicted seven of conspiracy, and declared a mistrial in the case of two members when they failed to agree on a verdict. They found Mitchell guilty of conspiracy but deadlocked on the racketeering charge.

Judge Roetgger sentenced the seven disciples to 15 to 16 years each, and Mitchell 18 years. His followers cried tears of joy and his victims, tears of bitter frustration. The cult had gotten away with murder.

In August 2001, Hulon Mitchell Jr., 65, walked out of prison a free man, a mere 10 years after entering it. Soon afterward, hundreds of his followers resurfaced at a conference in Canada, their new "Promised Land." The Yahwehs have also been active recruiting new members online, at Yahwehbenyahweh.com.

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