7/21/09 – FBI agent testifies at trial for Alamo

NWA News
July 21, 2009

FBI agent testifies at trial for Alamo


A bottle of Viagra was found in the same bathroom closet where investigators found Polaroid cameras and film during the Sept. 20 raid on the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke, an FBI agent testified Monday.

Special Agent Randall Harris also testified during Tony Alamo’s trial on sex-crime charges Monday that only “a few” interviews had been conducted before the FBI became involved in the investigation of Alamo in 2006, even though a former member testified earlier Monday that she had spoken with a state police investigator in 2001.

“What I was provided was not very voluminous,” Harris said. “There had been a few interviews conducted and some background information obtained, and to be quite honest, not a lot beyond that.”

Harris spoke during the sixth day of Alamo’s trial on charges that he took five underage girls across state lines for sex from March 1994 through October 2005. Alamo, the 74-year-old leader of a multistate ministry with headquarters in Fouke, claims the trips were for church business, not for sex.

Today, prosecutors are expected to play recordings of Alamo’s phone conversations from the Bowie County jail annex of the Bi-State Detention Center in Texarkana, Texas, where he is being held without bail. Alamo’s defense team will then begin its case, which one of the team’s attorneys predicted would take about 1/2 days to present.

Alamo was often animated during Harris’ testimony. When Harris testified about steps he took to protect one of the purported victims in the case, Alamo scoffed.

“After Waco, I’d be looking for safety, too, from the FBI,” Alamo muttered, referring to the 1993 raid of the Branch Davidian compound in Texas that ended with the deaths of more than 80 people.

Former ministry member Nicole Farr, 25, who lives in California, testified Monday that she contacted the Arkansas State Police in 2001 and described her experience in the ministry, which she had left at age 15. She testified that she lived in Alamo’s house and worked in the ministry office for more than two years. While Farr was in the ministry, she said one of her friends, who is named as a victim in the indictment, was taken by Alamo as a wife at age 14.

Another former member, who said she was married to Alamo in 1993 at age 17, testified last week that she spoke with the state police investigators at length in 2003.

Under questioning from one of Alamo’s attorneys, Phillip Kuhn of Lakeland, Fla., Harris said that when the FBI became involved in 2006, the state police case file included a report on the 2003 interview with the former wife, but “not many” other interviews had been conducted. Prosecutors have said the investigation began to gather steam after the victims in the indictment left the church in 2006 and 2007.

In a phone interview Monday, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said the state police investigation is ongoing.

“I’m not going to discuss what had been gathered prior to the FBI’s involvement,” Sadler said. “The case file will speak for itself.”

When the FBI and state police raided the Fouke compound in September, six girls were removed from the property, and child welfare authorities have since taken 30 other children into protective custody, saying they were endangered by practices that include allowing underage marriages and punishing disobedience with beatings.

While the FBI did not find any illicit photographs of underage girls during the raid, as it had expected, Harris said the agents did find two Polaroid cameras in a cabinet in Alamo’s bathroom, along with a bottle of Viagra that had been prescribed to ministry member Thomas Scarcello, who Harris said lives in the Fort Smith area. Harris said that, to his knowledge, Scarcello had never stayed overnight in Alamo’s house.

Under questioning by Kuhn, Harris said federal authorities do not plan to pursue any charges against parents who allowed their daughters to live with Alamo, and he denied using the threat of prosecution to coerce any of the purported victims to cooperate.

Two of the purported victims’ mothers testified earlier Monday, saying they sent their daughters to live with Alamo because they thought it was God’s will.

“I thought at that time that he was a very holy man, and that she was going to be safe,” said one mother, whose daughter has said she married Alamo at age 11. The mother, who now lives in Colorado Springs, said she finally left the church last year, after she said “a number of things just kept adding up, and I saw that things were unscriptural.”

Another mother said she was disturbed when she visited Alamo’s house in the fall of 2000 and saw one of the purported victims, then 9 or 10, rubbing Alamo’s upper thighs.

When Alamo noticed her staring, she said he asked her, “Do you think I’m not of the Lord? Do you think I’m doing something dirty? Do you think I’m a dirty old man?”

Her response: “No, sir.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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