7/16/09 – TG: Witness: Alamo bullied family

Texarkana Gazette
July 16, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo Trial: Witness: Alamo bullied family

Jane Doe No. 4 says evangelist threatened to kick family out if she didn’t marry him


A 30-year-old woman testified Wednesday she agreed to marry Tony Alamo when she was 15 to keep him from putting her pregnant mother, her father and three little brothers on the street.

Alamo was 59 on Feb. 8, 1994—the day he took the “freaked out” girl’s hand and “married” her in front of her “shocked” parents, testified the woman listed as Jane Doe No. 4 in the accused evangelist’s 10-count federal indictment.

Moments before they exchanged vows, Alamo had threatened to kick the family out and told them God had told him to marry the teen, the woman and her mother testified under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner.

“I was just thinking, ‘Oh God, no, no, this is insane,’” the woman’s mother said. “When he said the Lord told him to do something, I believed it.”

Jane Doe No. 4 said she was a third-generation member of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. Her mother had become a member at age 12 and her grandmother remains loyal to this day, she testified.

The woman gave details of a life totally controlled by “Papa Tony.”

Jane Doe No. 4 testified she and the other sisters Alamo had married traded nights in Alamo’s bed according to a schedule.

“Because it wasn’t my night, wasn’t my turn, I didn’t have sex with him on that trip,” said Jane Doe No. 4, referring to out-of-state travel with Alamo and other alleged wives during 1994.

After Wednesday’s court session, Alamo’s defense team, Don Ervin of Houston, Phillip Kuhn of Florida and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, said the government hasn’t proved Alamo, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, took his “wives” across state lines for the purpose of having sex with them as he is accused.

“The testimony we heard today doesn’t have anything to do with whether he’s guilty of violating the Mann Act,” Ervin said.

“They’re trying a substantive sex abuse case, not a Mann Act case,” Harrelson said.

Prosecuting Attorney Brent Haltom, whose office serves Miller County, Ark., said he will consider charging Alamo with state crimes if he isn’t convicted of breaking federal law.

“We’ve already had precedent on this,” Haltom said, referring to the case of Prentis Winkle, who was found not guilty by a federal jury in the same court in which Alamo is being tried. Winkle was later convicted of rape by a jury in Miller County. His defense attorney had tried to get the case dismissed by claiming double jeopardy.

Alamo is being tried in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas. U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes is presiding.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Plumlee said Tuesday the government will prove Alamo was motivated by a desire to have sex with underage women when he crossed state lines with them.

At one point, as Jane Doe No. 4 testified, Alamo mouthed the word “liar.”

One of the Jane Does named in the indictment was just 8 when Alamo allegedly married her.

“He described to us in great detail how he’d just fondled her,” testified Jane Doe No. 4. “My jaw just dropped …”

When she protested to Alamo about the girl’s age, lack of physical maturity and his current marriage to one of the child’s aunts, Alamo told her to “shut up,” Jane Doe No. 4 testified.

During her time on the witness stand Wednesday, she identified from photographs the bedrooms she and other alleged wives shared when it wasn’t their night, multiple ovulation prediction kits and properties she said Alamo controlled but didn’t own in name.

The woman said she was regularly beaten, forced to fast and denied free contact with her parents and siblings.

Jane Doe No. 4 said she left the church for good in November 2006.

She testified she and some of the other “wives” had cooked soup. Two batches of soup was made because Alamo liked noodles and the “wives” preferred corn and potatoes. Two different batches were made.

The woman she said she believed to be Sharon Alamo, Tony Alamo’s legal wife, had served him the wrong meal purposely to get the other women in trouble.

Jane Doe No. 4 testified that by the end of the day, she and several other wives had been ordered to fast. When one wife threatened to leave with her child, Alamo threatened her.

“He said if she left with their daughter he’d find her and he’d have her killed,” the woman testified through tears. The woman who was threatened is reported to be in hiding with the girl and other followers who fear child welfare officials will take their children.

On the night of the soup incident, Jane Doe No. 4 used a cell phone her mother had managed to stitch into the pocket lining of her coat to call her parents, get a plane ticket and leave, she testified.

Her mother testified she left a few years before her daughter with her husband and six other children after Alamo accused her husband of sleeping with Jane Doe No. 4 and another Alamo-wife.

Under cross-examination from Ervin, Jane Doe No. 4 spoke of counseling she received after contacting the FBI last October.

“I didn’t need any help with that,” she replied when Ervin asked if the staff at WellSpring had “demonized” Alamo. “He said it was a mind-controlling cult place and that if anybody went there they’d be brainwashed and get electric shock,” the woman said of a conversation she’d had with Alamo.

“It helped me learn I wasn’t an abnormal person and that I could go into society and lead a normal life,” the woman testified, referring to the counseling sessions.

A woman not named in the indictment, who allegedly married Alamo at 17, is expected to take the stand first today.

The 74-year-old Alamo could spend the rest of his life in a federal prison if convicted. The trial is expected to end next week.

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

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