3 Apr 2011

Family cult leader attempts to withdraw guilty plea in deal that saw him convicted and sentenced for raping girl

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - March 31, 2011

Cult leader wants to withdraw guilty plea

By Andria Simmons | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A man convicted in February of raping a teenage girl while he was a North Georgia cult leader is attempting to withdraw his guilty plea.

Albert Tony Walker filed a motion in Rabun County last week claiming the plea shouldn't count because he replied, "Yes sir, I guess so," when a judge asked if he was ready to go forward.

Rabun County District Attorney Brian Rickman said he doesn't believe the court will grant the motion, noting that Walker also signed a written plea agreement.

"It's just another attempt at control," Rickman said of Walker's motion.

If a judge grants the motion, Rickman said he would proceed with a trial. A hearing is slated for April 28.

Walker's defense attorney, Joe Cox, did not return calls seeking comment.

Walker, 63, was sentenced Feb. 23 to 10 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation. He was accused of raping a young member of the cult 16 times between 1991 and 1996.

He has already served 18 months while he awaited trial.

The victim, Kirsten Ferguson, said she was not surprised by Walker's maneuver, adding, "I knew he was going to do something like this." She is ready to take the witness stand if necessary at a trial. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution typically does not name rape victims; Ferguson, however, agreed to have her name publicized because she said Walker's misdeeds need to be exposed.

Prosecutors said Walker and his wife, Dalene, at one time had 50 people living with them on a 17-acre tract of land in the Chattahoochee National Forest near Clayton. The cult disbanded sometime around 1996.

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