5/05/09 – UPDATE: Alamo lawyers ask for continuance in sex case

Pine Bluff Commercial
May 5, 2009

Alamo lawyers ask for continuance in sex case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Lawyers for jailed evangelist Tony Alamo want another four months to prepare for his federal trial on sex charges, saying they’ve received only some of the evidence against their client.

In a 28-page filing Tuesday, Alamo defense lawyer Danny Davis accused federal prosecutors of “piling on” charges and witnesses against the 74-year-old preacher. Davis also claimed Alamo’s former defense lawyer, John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock, failed to conduct any investigation into the allegations.

Without the extra time, Davis wrote that holding the trial as planned on May 18 would make Alamo an “unarmed prisoner sacrificed to armed gladiators.”

“In this case, there can be no reasonable justification for a defense attorney deciding that no investigation will be conducted, for whatever reason,” Davis wrote. “At age 74, (Alamo) is facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison, if he is not competently represented.”

Hall, who serves as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, denied Davis’ claims. Hall said he set aside two months to prepare for Alamo’s trial and talked with members of Alamo church “about four times a day.”

Alamo, who faces charges of taking young girls across state lines for sex, allegedly had encounters with the girls on buses and in showers, Davis has said. Alamo’s ministry, which has churches in Arkansas, California and New York. uses a fleet of passenger vans to ferry members between locations.

Hall said Alamo’s church was going through its detailed membership and attendance rosters, tracking who went where during the times of the alleged sexual encounters when he served as the evangelist’s lawyer. Hall described those records as the fruit of a growing investigation cut short in March, when Alamo fired him and hired Davis.

Alamo later requested Hall return some of his retainer, but the lawyer said he offered detailed time sheets of the work he had done.

“I could tell I was going to be tossed under the bus,” Hall told The Associated Press.

Hall also said he found it “ironic” that Alamo fired him over a busy calendar, but then hired Davis, who is in another trial expected to end this week.

Davis also requested the delay so he could undergo surgery to repair a sports injury to his left knee and shoulder he suffered in February.

U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes, who will preside over Alamo’s trial, already granted one three-month continuance. Prosecutors opposed the first delay. Interim U.S. Attorney Debbie Groom did not return a call for comment Tuesday night.

The 10-count indictment against Alamo accuses him of sexually abusing five girls on separate occasions beginning in 1994, including a period when he was serving time at a halfway house in Texarkana. While prosecutors have been silent about what evidence they plan to offer at trial, Davis’ filing Tuesday gave some new details about what FBI agents have gathered to use against him.

On April 1, prosecutors turned over computer disks containing “photographs and aerial views of real estate in Fouke, Ark., Arizona and parts of California,” the filing reads. Also included were photographs of vehicles, a disk containing text messages from a cellular phone, credit card receipts and hotel records, according to the filing.

Prosecutors also have hours of taped jailhouse telephone calls made by Alamo since his arrest Sept. 25 in Flagstaff, Ariz. Hall said nearly all the calls he heard before leaving the case dealt with administering church business and dictating in sermons to be posted on the ministry’s Web site.

Davis also acknowledged his own investigations into the allegations remains stymied by followers in hiding, fearful their children will be seized by child-welfare officials. Since the Sept. 20 raid on Alamo’s compound in Fouke, Arkansas officials have seized 36 children over allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the church.

Barnes is also presiding over a civil lawsuit by Alamo’s church seeking to stop child-welfare officials from seizing more children associated with the ministry. Monday, the judge issued an order that seals evidence identifying the children seized or providing details of closed-door custody hearings that continue in Miller County.

Alamo’s ministry sued the state in April, alleging state child-welfare officials were persecuting the evangelist’s followers. The suit asks Barnes to issue a restraining order blocking the state from seizing children solely because their parents belong to the church. It also asks that Barnes stop the state from forcing parents to leave the church in order to regain custody of their children.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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