7/15/09 – AP: Witness: Tony Alamo had total control of compound

My Way News
July 15, 2009

Witness: Evangelist had total control of compound

A woman whose parents and grandparents followed evangelist Tony Alamo testified at his sex-crime trial Wednesday that “Papa Tony” segregated children by gender to prevent “hanky-panky” and controlled everything at his religious compound.

The woman, now 30, said children in the compound were not allowed to attend public schools and instead took classes that Alamo himself approved. She also said the pastor’s consent was needed if a follower wanted to obtain food or clothing, or borrow a car from the motor pool.

“He had control over everything,” the woman said.

Alamo, 74, is accused of taking five girls across state lines for sex between 1994 and 2005. The woman did not testify about any specific allegations before the judge ordered a recess so workers could fix a broken computer monitor at the defense table.

The woman said her first memory of Alamo was from age 3, when his ministry was based along Georgia Ridge in far western Arkansas. Her family moved to New York briefly in 1991 after federal marshals seized the land amid Alamo’s disputes with the IRS and Labor Department.

In the fifth grade, she said, Alamo ordered boys and girls into separate classrooms.

“He said he didn’t want, as he put it, any hanky-panky between boys and girl,” the woman said.

In 1992, the girl was a young teen and had returned to western Arkansas. She and other girls worked as baby-sitters and also had to help in the church office or wrap candy at one of Alamo’s business ventures. Her mother, she said, purchased groceries to feed the flock.

Prosecutors alleged in their opening statement Tuesday that Alamo took a girl as young as age 8 as a bride and repeatedly sexually assaulted her and that at least four other girls were raped or assaulted as well. Defense lawyers say the girls traveled the country for outreach and to support the business interests of a “bona fide religious group.”

Jurors were expected to hear from Alamo’s alleged victims early in the trial. While the woman who testified Wednesday did not discuss specific sex crimes, it is expected that she will. The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

In questioning Wednesday, a woman in a photograph shown to the witness was identified as “one of Tony Alamo’s wives” – drawing a sharp objection from Alamo’s lawyers. U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes has said references to Alamo’s alleged polygamy is off limits.

After a few minutes of discussion at the bench, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner referred to women in the photos as “residents” of Tony Alamo’s home.

During the bench conference, Alamo grabbed a book of photos from the defense table and looked at the pictures from a distance of about 2 inches. The woman on the stand smiled occasionally while looking around the courtroom. During a glance at Alamo she wiped away a tear.

Defense lawyers say the government targeted the ministry for prosecution and Alamo says the trial is part of a Vatican-led conspiracy against him.

“This investigation, this prosecution was fueled by prejudice the government and law enforcement have against Tony Alamo’s church because of its practices,” said Don Ervin, who is leading Alamo’s defense team.

Alamo, whose ministry grew into a multimillion industry on the backs of his followers, was convicted of tax evasion charges in 1994. He served four years in prison after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million.

In 1991, Alamo was acquitted of threatening a federal judge – a case that fueled an extraordinary increase in security efforts for Alamo’s current trial.

State and federal agents raided Alamo’s compound in far southwestern Arkansas last September. Alamo was later named in a 10-count indictment.

If convicted, Alamo faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. He is being held without bond until the end of his trial.

In: 2009 - (Trial year), Victim's Testimonies

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