7/23/09 – Alamo trial jury deliberates today

Texarkana Gazette
July 23, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo trial jury deliberates today

The fate of embattled evangelist Tony Alamo now rests in the hands of 12 Arkansans and could be decided today.

Federal prosecutors and Alamo’s defense attorneys delivered their closing arguments Wednesday. Alamo did not take the stand.

The jury of nine men and three women will return this morning to the federal building in downtown Texarkana to begin deliberations.

“Tony Alamo, your crimes have been exposed in this courtroom,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner as she turned from the jury toward Alamo. “Society cannot tolerate a sexual predator of this magnitude … If we don’t stand for children, we don’t stand for much.”

If convicted, Alamo could be sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes.

During portions of Jenner’s final statements, Alamo’s eyes closed, his lips parted and his head began to sag backward.

But when his lawyers spoke, the 74-year-old defendant smiled.

“You’re probably angry right now at what you’ve heard in this courtroom,” said defense attorney Phillip Kuhn. “What are the true motives of this government? Why are they persecuting Tony? Why are they really here?”

Prosecutors are trying Alamo under the Mann Act, which forbids the transport of girls across state lines for sex.

Kuhn and defense attorney Don Ervin told the jury Alamo took trips to conduct church business, attend doctors appointments and prepare for a 1994 criminal tax evasion trial and that the girls were taken to perform office work.

“Defense counsel wants to change the law to make his client not guilty,” said Jenner, telling the jury that the law requires them to focus on the “dominant” reasons the five Jane Does were taken on trips around the country, not on Alamo’s primary purpose for leaving his home.

“Tony Alamo loyalists testified he has followers worldwide,” Jenner said. “Do you believe the only office workers Tony Alamo could find were underage girls? This defies credibility.”

Jenner mentioned the names of several adult women who work as bookkeepers and in offices away from Alamo’s Fouke, Ark., home who were never asked to accompany him on trips.

Jenner reminded the jury that Jane Doe No. 1, who was 11 when Alamo allegedly took her as a bride, testified that “the only thing he used me for was sex.”

“Tony Alamo used them as sexual companions,” the prosecutor said.

Jenner also pointed jurors to the words of Jane Doe No. 2, allegedly a wife as an 8-year-old, describing it as “some of the most emotionally raw testimony of this trial.”

Jenner said Jane Doe No. 2 was “degraded with Mr. Alamo’s illegal conduct and his disgusting comments to her.”

“She wasn’t brought into his home because she could contribute to Tony Alamo’s business,” Jenner said. “I ask you, what church business does a 9-year-old conduct?”

Kuhn told the jury the case wasn’t about polygamy, child abuse, pedophelia or religion, referring to the testimony jurors listened to during the six days of testimony.

“Was it just to turn this jury into a moral mob?” Kuhn asked.

Outside the courthouse Wednesday afternoon, Alamo’s statements reflected a less optimistic view than earlier in the trial when he’d declared himself a winner.

“In this court? In this unjust court? How’re you gonna win?” Alamo shouted as federal marshals walked him to a waiting car.

When asked if he regretted not taking the stand, Alamo said, “It wouldn’t do any good. I’m not allowed to use the Bible.”

A query about the future of his ministry elicited a comparison of himself to Christ.

“What happened to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ when they convicted him?” Alamo shouted. “I’m a part of his body, yes.”

The jury didn’t get to hear from Alamo, but they did listen to a final defense witness Wednesday.

The testimony of the mother of Jane Doe No. 3 lasted just a few minutes after Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Taylor began to cross-examine her.

“I think I’m going to take the Fifth on that,” Sue Davis said when Taylor began asking her about a myriad of aliases she’s used. She was referring to the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to avoid testifying against oneself in a criminal trial.

Davis’ name appears on emergency custody orders signed last November ordering the removal of children from Alamo’s ministry in Fouke. A staff member of the Arkansas Department of Human Services served Davis with the papers that lists her son.

On Tuesday, Jane Doe No. 2’s mother, who is listed as the mother or guardian of eight children, was served in court after invoking her right not to incriminate herself. Barnes struck Jennifer Kolbek’s testimony from the record Tuesday, but on Wednesday, he said he’d changed his mind and would allow the jury to consider her words.

More than 90 children listed on the orders are missing, presumably taken into hiding with their parents.

Besides sexual abuse, children in the ministry were subjected to beatings, forced fasts and educational and medical neglect, according to court documents.

Barry Haynes, who said he left the ministry after witnessing the beating of 12-year-old Justin Miller in the 80s, said he and his wife, Connie, had come to Texarkana to watch some of the trial.

“It was the last straw,” said Haynes, who said he testified against Alamo in another case in California. “Alamo was directing it through the phone. I remember about 140 whacks with a board.”

Connie Haynes said she thinks the five girls who’ve testified against Alamo this week are heroes.

“I’m ready to see justice. I’m mad about what he’s done to the name of Christianity,” she said, wondering also about those she knew in the church before leaving in 1996.

“Tony Alamo talked a lot about the Pope and the anti-Christ,” Connie Haynes said. “Now they’ve made Tony their Pope.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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