7/17/09 – Witness: Nervous Alamo cut up explicit photos

The Washington Post
July 17, 2009
By JON GAMBRELL, The Associated Press

Witness: Nervous Alamo cut up explicit photos


A woman who says she was “married” to evangelist Tony Alamo at age 8 testified at his sex-crimes trial Friday that the minister likely cut into tiny pieces the explicit photos of her he took of her around that time.

Defense lawyer Phillip Kuhn had asked why, if Alamo had taken such photos — as the woman testified a day earlier — no child pornography was found during a September raid on Alamo’s property near Fouke, a tiny town southeast of Texarkana. The woman, now 18, said Alamo was paranoid and often sliced up pictures.

“We had to vacuum the floor for all the little pieces he missed,” she said.

Alamo, 74, is accused of taking five girls across state lines for sex. He has pleaded not guilty. Defense lawyers say the government has targeted the ministry for prosecution, and Alamo has said the Vatican is behind the accusations.

The woman, who testified Thursday that Alamo groped her after their “wedding” and began having sex with her when she was a 9-year-old third-grader, said her parents worked against her when she tried to obtain help from social workers after escaping from the minister’s Arkansas compound in 2006.

She said New Mexico officials rejected her attempt to enter foster care after they called her parents, who are key Alamo deputies.

“What are they going to do when my parents say nothing ever happened and I was a liar?” the woman said.

The woman said she eventually received help from Arkansas child-welfare officers. Her story helped prompt a raid on Alamo’s compound.

Kuhn also there was reason to doubt allegations made at the time of the raid that young girls were at risk because of the woman’s allegations.

“There were other people in danger and no one that you told did anything to protect them for four months?” Kuhn asked.

While being questioned by prosecutors Thursday, the woman noted that she did some office filing after “marrying” Alamo at age 8 but that she wasn’t allowed to answer the telephone.

“I was too young,” she said.

She said at one point after their “wedding” she asked Alamo why he had selected her.

“He said, ‘Because you were cute,'” she testified. “It wasn’t God’s will that he married me. It’s just because he thought I was cute.”

Her testimony left jurors red-eyed and shaking their heads.

The Associated Press generally does not identify those who say they were victims of sex crimes.

Defense lawyers have largely left the sex and underage marriage claims unchallenged, though they have questioned witnesses’ memories and whether they had been coached by authorities.

Under Kuhn’s questioning Friday, the woman acknowledged that she received counseling at a center that caters to former cult members at the same time as two other prosecution witnesses. She said witnesses also ate a dinner together before the trial but that all were cautioned to not talk about the case.

She also said that FBI agents and prosecutors had given her gifts since she stepped forward: an $80 Wal-Mart gift card, balloons and flowers on her birthday and a Valentine’s Day-themed blanket when she was having a rough time. The FBI also provided her with a cell phone so they could keep in touch with her.

A Florida woman who testified against Alamo on Wednesday said she was “married” to him at age 15 and raised objections to Alamo taking an 8-year-old as a bride. A woman from Texas told jurors the minister made light of taking a young girl on the road as a wife and sex partner.

“It was flaunting that he could get away with this,” she said.

If convicted, Alamo faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the 10 counts against him. He is being held without bond.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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