7/29/09 – TG: Former Tony Alamo followers civil suit to go to trial in 2010

Texarkana Gazette
July 29, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Former Tony Alamo followers civil suit to go to trial in 2010

A civil lawsuit filed by two former members of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries seeking damages for their alleged suffering has been scheduled for a July 2010 jury trial.

U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes issued a scheduling order Tuesday in the case that was filed by Texarkana lawyer David Carter on behalf of Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna. Both men are seeking damages for wrongs they say they suffered at the hands of Alamo and his fugitive associate John Kolbek.

“As the case is postured now, we should be able to proceed to trial by then. The court has to rule on some pending motions that might affect that date, but we should be able to go to trial against Alamo next July,” Carter said.

The lawsuit describes three beatings Ondrisek allegedly suffered as a child of 12, 14 and 17. Calagna was allegedly beaten twice, at ages 17 and 17, by Kolbek at Alamo’s direction. Both men were 18 when the suit was filed last November.

“Specifically, defendants entered into an agreement and understanding to commit battery, false imprisonment and outrage towards plaintiffs,” the suit states.

Carter is asking the court to award actual and punitive damages.

Now that Alamo has been found guilty of bringing young girls across state lines for sex, he cannot deny as true the testimony in his criminal case that led to his criminal conviction.

Kolbek, 49, is wanted by officials in Sebastian County, Ark., where Fort Smith is, for allegedly beating Calagna. Federal authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest for unlawful flight from prosecution.

Carter recently filed a motion asking Barnes to sever Kolbek’s case from Alamo’s. He also asked that the court find Kolbek in default and order a judgment against him.

Carter must file documents outlining what he believes Kolbek should have to pay. If Barnes finds him in default and enters a judgment against him, any assets bearing Kolbek’s name can be liquidated to pay it, Carter said.

There was also some action Tuesday in a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the church and two fathers with children in foster care.

That suit accuses the Arkansas Department of Human Services of using a child abuse investigation to disband the controversial group and of violating the religious freedom rights of Alamo-following parents.

Florida attorney Phillip Kuhn filed a motion Tuesday asking that DHS be compelled to turn over “any document that references and/or mentions the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries for the years 2003-2009.”

In previous action related to the suit, Barnes granted Kuhn permission to conduct “limited discovery” on the issue of whether DHS has acted in bad faith in its investigation leading to the removal of 36 children and state court orders that authorize the taking of more than 125.

If Barnes finds DHS didn’t act in bad faith, he might be obligated to dismiss the case because of accepted legal doctrine that usually keeps federal courts from interfering in state proceedings.

Kuhn’s motion states DHS can leave out the names of juveniles, any pending criminal investigations or child abuse investigations, any conclusions by law enforcement as to the guilt or innocence of any person and the names of any adult under criminal investigation.

“All plaintiffs are seeking and all that is relevant are the dates and interviews conducted by the Arkansas State Police on any child abuse investigations of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and how that information was transmitted to the defendants …” the motion said, also asking for memos and e-mails.

The motion states that DHS lawyers told Kuhn on July 23 and 24 they don’t want to hand over the information without a court order. Kuhn asked the court to file the information under seal once received.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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