April 10, 2012
By Lynn LaRowe
A jury verdict and $66 million civil judgment against imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo will be considered by a federal appeals court in the coming months.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has slated the case for oral arguments that are likely to occur some time this summer. Alamo’s lawyer, John Wesley Hall of Little Rock, and Texarkana defense attorney David Carter, who represents Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna, recently provided availability dates to the higher court at its request.
Last year, a jury in the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas awarded Ondrisek and Calagna $33 million each as recompense for suffering they endured as children raised in the controversial group.
U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes denied a motion for a new trial Hall filed and a request to reduce the large award.
During the trial, Carter asked the jury to assess a damages award that would make Alamo’s “eyes roll back in his head.”
The judgment is the largest in Arkansas history.
Alamo, 76, was convicted in July 2009 of all 10 counts listed in a federal indictment accusing him of bringing five women he’d wed as children across state lines for sex. Later the same year, Barnes sentenced Alamo, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, to the maximum prison term of 175 years.
Alamo took his criminal case to an appellate court and was denied relief. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to even consider it. Alamo is serving his time at a federal lockup in Illinois.
While Alamo’s fate in the criminal justice system appears sealed, his lips are not. The ministry’s Website continues to publish new writings from Alamo that espouse the government is controlled by the Vatican, polygamy is condoned by God, girls should wed at puberty and Alamo is a victim of religious persecution.
Seven women, six of whom were wives of Alamo, have filed a civil suit for damages, with Carter’s help, claiming they are victims of Alamo’s ministry.
The suit names the ministry, ministry-run businesses, several high-ranking members and the owner of a security company that once provided armed guards to patrol the perimeter of the ministry’s Fouke, Ark., compound as defendants. Some of the defendants have filed counter suits that name the plaintiffs’ parents and Alamo as defendants.
The complicated case was set Friday for an April 15, 2013, jury trial by U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey.