7/24/09 – Jury is still out on Tony Alamo trial

Texarkana Gazette
July 24, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Jury is still out on Tony Alamo trial

The jury seated to decide the fate of Tony Alamo called it a day Thursday without rendering a verdict. They are expected to return to court today to continue deliberations.

The nine men and three women began discussing the case at 8:17 a.m. Thursday. U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes sent them home around 4:45 p.m.

“I understand you are making progress and that you probably need a little more time,” Barnes said before dismissing them. “And I know you’re tired.”

Some members of the jury walked with arms crossed against their chests wearing stern looking expressions. Others appeared to smile.

Alamo’s defense team said the lack of a verdict is a good sign.

“The notes they sent out indicate to me they’re working through the jury charge and the law, and if they do that, they’ll acquit the defendant,” said Alamo’s lead defense attorney, Don Ervin of Houston. “The general rule is that the longer the jury stays out, it’s good for the defense.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Plumlee said prosecutors aren’t interpreting the lengthy deliberations as a win for Alamo.

“For a case with over a week of testimony to go into a second day of deliberations is not that shocking,” Plumlee said. “I think they want to sort through all of the testimony and do what’s right.”

The 74-year-old evangelist is facing a 10-count federal indictment accusing him of bringing young girls across state lines for sex. If convicted, Alamo could receive as many as 30 years for three counts, as many as 15 years for three others and up to 10 years for four, Plumlee said previously.

If convicted of all 10 counts and if Barnes sentences him to the maximum on each to serve consecutively, Alamo’s penalty could total 175 years.

Each count also carries with it the possibility of a $250,000 fine.

During her closing remarks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner told the jury Alamo had plenty of adult women with clerical and bookkeeping skills as members of his ministry who never accompanied him on trips.

Jenner said it “defied credibility” to believe the girls were taken across state lines to work and not for sex.

Thursday morning, the jury gave the court a note with two questions. Later Thursday afternoon, they sent a note asking another question. Barnes revealed the questions to the defense and prosecution in chambers but did not permit their public disclosure.

During six full days of testimony, jurors listened to bizarre descriptions of Alamo’s alleged plural marriages to juveniles, his reportedly absolute control over his followers and allegations of extreme psychological and physical abuse of ministry members and their children.

Witnesses and former followers said Alamo devotees were not allowed to use the phone, read a newspaper, visit family or go to the store without permission from the “prophet.”

However, many defense witnesses, including women allegedly “married” to Alamo to this day, testified they believe their “pastor” speaks directly to God.

“It’s one thing when you read about it in the Bible,” said an allegedly high-ranking member of Alamo’s organization, as he sat chatting with others outside Murfeld’s Coffee Shop across from the federal courthouse in downtown Texarkana. “It’s different when you actually experience it.” He seemed to be comparing Alamo’s criminal trial to events in the Bible surrounding the experiences of Jesus Christ.

But the testimony of five Jane Does named in Alamo’s 10-count federal indictment, described by observers as “gripping,” “disturbing” and “heartbreaking,” told a different story.

Jane Doe No. 2 told jurors she clutched a stuffed animal as Alamo’s hand violated her 8-year-old body for the first time. Jane Doe No. 3 told jurors Alamo made hergo out of state to call her concerned father. According to testimony, this was done so the call would be traced to property far away from Alamo’s Fouke residence. Her father was concerned she had been taken as Alamo’s wife at 14. Alamo had allegedly exchanged vows with her in the visitation area of the Federal Correctional Institute in Texarkana as other “wives” huddled to block them from the view of cameras and guards.

Jane Doe No. 4 testified she was 15 when Alamo summoned her and her parents, both lifelong members, to his home. He threatened to “kick out” her pregnant mother, father and younger brothers if she didn’t agreed to wed.

Jane Doe No. 1 testified she married Alamo at age 11. “All he wanted me for was sex while I was there,” she said of a trip she allegedly took with Alamo.

Jane Doe No. 5 was 14 when she allegedly married Alamo. She said he called her, her sister, Jane Doe No. 1 and other girls into his room and said he’d been told by God he was supposed to “marry” one of the sisters and another girl, witnesses testified.

“Many ex-members and concerned local citizens have worked and waited for years for this to come about,” said Mary Coker, a member of Partnered Against Cult Activity. “We know he’s guilty of the crimes. We just hope the court of man sees it the same way.”

PACA was founded several years ago by Dyann Jackson, a former member. Jackson said when she left the ministry in 1972, she’d been so isolated from the outside world she didn’t know who the country’s president was.

“I could see something beginning that wasn’t right with what I’d come there for,” Jackson said. “They’d started the military-style reporting and there was so much control.”

Prosecuting Attorney Brent Haltom, whose district serves Miller County, said he will consider filing state charges if Alamo is acquitted in federal court.

As Alamo left the courthouse in cuffs, he was asked if he thought God had a hand in the events.

“Who knows,” Alamo said. “God has a hand in everything.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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2 Posts

  1. Justice Says:

    U Da Woman, Lynn. Of all the reporters following this case, you have been my Walter Cronkite. Job well done. !

  2. Justice Says:

    Ha, that gives Ervin and 0 for 10 right off the bat. He is a prophet rivaling alamo’s futility of prediction and prophecy.

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