7/22/09 – Lawyers hope to keep Alamo off stand in sex trial

The Washington Post
July 22, 2009
The Associated Press

Lawyers hope to keep pastor off stand in sex trial

A woman whose daughter said she was one of evangelist Tony Alamo’s teenage “brides” told federal jurors Wednesday that the girl had “adolescent problems” and was sent to live with the pastor so she would behave better.

While the woman was called by Alamo defense, much of her testimony matched that given by her daughter, a witness for the prosecution.

Alamo, 74, is named in a 10-count federal indictment alleging that he took five young girls across state lines for sex. He has pleaded not guilty. Defense lawyers say prosecutors targeted Alamo because of his beliefs and Alamo claims the Vatican is responsible for his legal trouble.

Jurors could get the case as early as Wednesday afternoon.

A woman who said she was age 14 when she “married” Alamo at a Texarkana, Texas, federal prison in 1998 had told jurors last week her father had become upset about her living at the evangelist’s home. The woman, who is now 25, said Alamo ordered her to drive to Oklahoma to call her father to show she wasn’t at the compound and allay his fears. Her mother on Wednesday also described the girl’s trip to Oklahoma to call her father.

The mother also indicated that she didn’t have a problem sending her daughter to Alamo’s home so she would become better behaved, after developing “quite a few adolescent problems.”

U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes ordered a short delay in the trial Wednesday so Alamo’s lawyers can discuss with him whether he should testify. Alamo has told reporters he wants to speak with jurors directly, but his legal team has recommended against it. Defense lawyers sought a break until early Wednesday afternoon.

Before jurors and lawyers arrived for court Wednesday, Alamo took off his tinted glasses for the first time in the courtroom and exchanged them for a pair of thick-glassed clear lenses in a black frame.

He wrote pages and pages of notes and when his defense team entered the room he began slapping the notepad as it rested on the table and told the lawyers, “Well, I am going to get up there.”

In large block letters, he wrote “Pornography,” an apparent reference to child pornography listed in a search warrant for the Sept. 20 raid that was not found. None has been offered at trial, but a witness said Alamo was “paranoid,” used an instant camera to take nude pictures of at least one girl and often cut up photos into small pieces.

Alamo has said the girls cited in the indictment traveled to do legitimate work for the ministry, which has about 100-200 followers. His apocalyptic tracts outline his hatred of the Vatican and his feared “one-world government” as well as his belief in flying saucers.

Each of the 10 counts against Alamo is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The mother who testified Wednesday refused to say where her currently underage children are. Arkansas child welfare officials have been seeking them since the raid on Alamo’s property at Fouke, southeast of Texarkana.

She invoked her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination when asked who she was living with and was dismissed from the stand. The mother of another alleged victim, who also has underage children being sought by the state, invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege on Tuesday.

Barnes allowed Wednesday’s testimony to stand and rescinded an order that had stricken the other mother’s testimony. In it, the mother of an 18-year-old who allegedly “married” Alamo at age 8 told jurors her daughter was “constantly trouble.”

After their courtroom appearances, both mothers who took the Fifth Amendment were served with legal documents ordering them to surrender their remaining underage children. State officials already have seized 36 children associated with the ministry.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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