5/28/09 – NWA: Alamo defender asking to withdraw

May 28, 2009

Alamo defender asking to withdraw

Less than two weeks after winning a delay in jailed evangelist Tony Alamo’s trial on sex charges, Alamo’s lead defense attorney told prosecutors he plans to withdraw from the case, a spokesman for the Western District of Arkansas’ U.S. attorney’s office said Wednesday.

Attorney Danny Davis of Beverly Hills, Calif., faxed a letter to prosecutors early last week saying he would no longer be representing Alamo, whose given name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman, assistant U.S. attorney Chris Plumlee said. The letter didn’t give a reason, Plumlee said.

“The impression I got was that he and Mr. Hoffman had come to this conclusion that Mr. Hoffman didn’t want him to represent him anymore,” Plumlee said.

The letter was sent less than two weeks after a May 8 order by U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes granting a request by Davis to postpone the trial, which had been set for May 18. Barnes’ order moved the trial to July 13.

In asking for the delay, Davis had said he needed more time to investigate the allegations and that he needed to have surgery on his knee, which he injured playing sports. Prosecutors objected to the request, saying they had already issued subpoenas to dozens of witnesses across the country.

“Certainly, part of the basis for their motion to continue was so that he could have surgery,” Plumlee said. “It’s a little disappointing that a couple of weeks later he asks to be relieved.”

As of Wednesday, Davis had not formally asked Barnes for permission to withdraw. Plumlee said he didn’t know whether prosecutors would object to the request.

Davis, who didn’t return a call seeking comment on Wednesday, won fame in the 1980s for his work defending Raymond Buckey against charges that he and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, sexually abused children at the family’s preschool in Manhattan Beach, Calif. After a trial that lasted more than two years, jurors in 1990 acquitted the two on some charges and deadlocked on others, and prosecutors decided not to take the case to trial again.

Alamo, the 74-year-old leader of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, is accused of transporting five underage girls across state lines for sex between March 1994 and October 2005. In addition to Davis, his defense team includes attorneys Don Ervin of Houston and Jeffrey Harrelson of Texarkana. Ervin and Harrelson didn’t return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Alamo’s arrest on Sept. 25 came five days after more than 100 FBI agents, Arkansas State Police officers and Arkansas Department of Human Services caseworkers raided the ministry’s compound in Fouke in search of evidence that children there had been physically and sexually abused. Six children were taken into protective custody during the raid, and an additional 30 children associated with the ministry have since been taken into custody and placed in foster care.

Plumlee confirmed Wednesday that authorities served another search warrant at the compound within the last three weeks. He declined to say what was sought or taken during the search.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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