11/13/09 – TG: Alamo sentencing today; Separate hearing set for victim restitution issues

Texarkana Gazette
November 13, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo sentencing today: Separate hearing set for victim restitution issues

The amount of restitution Tony Alamo owes to the young girls he took as child brides won’t be decided this morning at his federal sentencing on sex abuse charges in downtown Texarkana.

Instead, a separate hearing to address the matter has been scheduled for January.

U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes issued the ruling after Alamo’s defense lawyers complained in a motion filed Wednesday, a federal holiday, that they didn’t have enough time to evaluate a government expert’s estimation of what it would take to make the victims whole medically and psychologically.

An average cost of $2,774,500 is estimated by Dr. Sharon Cooper for “health care costs only for each ‘survivor,’” the defense motion said.

“Concerning physical health, many of the diagnoses listed by Dr. Cooper can be caused by a multitude of factors, several of which are naturally occurring, requiring pelvic exams and ultrasounds to determine causation of female reproductive ailments,” the defense argued. “A large percentage of the female population has the various physical ailments Dr. Cooper suggests, but there is no causational link to defendant provided in her report.”

The defense motion asked for more time to have its own expert visit the matter of restitution and argued that Cooper’s report wasn’t detailed enough.

In a response filed Thursday, the government states Cooper’s report was given to the defense as soon as it was received Nov. 3.

“As a developmental and forensic pediatrician, I found this case particularly thought provoking in seeking to advise the court regarding restitution,” said the only page of Cooper’s report attached to the government’s response. “A brief summary of the case is that Tony Alamo was the owner of a lucrative business referred to as the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. This entity had subsidiary businesses which were operated by members of the cult and their children … Each of these young women had been victims of child sexual abuse, coerced child marriage and intimate partner violence committed by Tony Alamo.”

Barnes denied the defense motion to postpone sentencing.

Three of the five women who gave graphic and disturbing accounts of life in Alamo’s house during his trial plan to offer victim impact testimony today, according to a notice filed by the government earlier this month.

The 75-year-old Alamo, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, will be brought by federal marshals from his one-man cell in the administrative segregation wing of the Bowie County Correctional Facility in downtown Texarkana to the city’s federal building this morning.

On July 24, a jury convicted Alamo of all 10 counts of an indictment accusing him of bringing young girls across state lines for sex.

He faces up to 175 years.

Plans to appeal his conviction are already underway.

Little Rock attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. has signed on for the task and said he’ll file notice of an appeal at the conclusion of today’s hearing.

Hall was the first attorney Alamo hired after he was arrested in September 2008 following a raid of his Fouke, Ark., compound by members of the FBI and Arkansas State Police. Months into the case, Alamo decided to go with other representation.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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