7/10/09 – TG: UPDATE: Defense doesn’t want references to cult or polygamy at trial

Texarkana Gazette
July 10, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Defense doesn’t want references to cult or polygamy at trial

Tony Alamo’s defense team doesn’t want words like polygamy, cult and compound to be mentioned during Alamo’s federal sexual abuse trial.

“The evidence of multiple relationships with numerous females has a propensity to hit a nerve in some jurors and the chance is great the defendant will be the subject of jury retribution,” a motion filed Thursday by the defense argued.

During a tour of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministry outpost Tuesday in Fouke, Ark., a book titled “Polygamous Families in Contemporary Society” was among other religiously oriented texts shelved in Alamo’s bedroom.

The defense hopes exhibits and testimony, “…including any written or oral statement of the defendant concerning polygamy,” will be excluded.

References to “cult activity” don’t prove Alamo had sex with underage girls while transporting them across state lines as he is accused, the motion states.

The motion asks that a long list of other topics and vocabulary be declared off limits by the court as well.

The defense doesn’t want jurors to hear anything about the accused evangelist’s alleged views on underage matrimony.

“The government intends to put into evidence certain tracts, or sermons, allegedly written by the defendant that justify the marriage of females at puberty,” the motion said.

Alamo’s sexual relationships with women above the age of consent aren’t relevant to the charges involving minors and, “… will have a significant adverse effect on the defendant’s right to receive a fair verdict from an impartial jury,” the motion states.

Alamo’s lawyers also want U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes to ban references to marriage as a “sealing,” punishment as a “proverb,” or “fasting” as a consequence.

Any mention of Alamo’s criminal past or of beatings by Alamo or his associates is another issue the defense wants sidestepped in the trial.

Since his arrest by the FBI in October 2008, authorities have been recording Alamo’s phone conversations. In March, they began recording his visits as well.

“The tapes are replete with irrelevant and inflammatory statements about all sorts of subjects and topics: business affairs of the church and money, religious affairs and tract distribution, legal affairs including comments on lawyers’ personalities, credibility, performance and fees,” the motion states.

The defense wants Barnes to review the tapes outside the jury’s presence and allow “irrelevant” content to be edited.

“This process will substantially lengthen the trial,” the motion states.

Barnes has set aside two weeks for Alamo’s trial. The jury selection process is scheduled to begin Monday.

The U.S. Marshal’s service is planning to beef up security because of Alamo’s high profile status.

“We hope that nothing happens out of the ordinary but we’ll be prepared if something does happen out of the ordinary,” said Deputy Marshal Johnny Larkin.

Alamo is currently being represented by Don Ervin of Houston and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana. Alamo has released two other lawyers.

Thursday, Phillip Kuhn of Florida was added to Alamo’s current team of legal advocates in the criminal case.

Kuhn is already representing Alamo in a civil suit filed in November 2008 by two former members who allege they were beaten, starved and forced to work unpaid while living on ministry properties in Arkansas.

Kuhn recently filed a suit on behalf of the church and two fathers whose children are in state custody. The suit accuses administrators at the Arkansas Department of Human Services of using a child abuse investigation to disband Alamo Ministries.

Barnes signed an order Thursday nullifying subpoenas for FBI Special Agent Randall Harris and Arkansas State Police Sgt. John Bishop that would have required them to answer questions for the civil case before the criminal trial began.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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