1/29/10 – TG: Closed custody hearings for Alamo parents continue today

Texarkana Gazette
January 29, 2010
By: Lynn LaRowe

Closed custody hearings for Alamo parents continue today

Custody hearings concerning six families with ties to Alamo Ministries are taking longer than expected and will continue today.

Comments concerning the closed proceedings made by parents’ rights advocate Cheryl Barnes led Circuit Judge Joe Griffin to caution lawyers, parents and others present not to discuss the proceedings.

In a previous interview, Florida attorney Phillip Kuhn, who represents parents who remain devoted to Alamo, said he believes the Arkansas juvenile courts should be more open.

“I don’t think that all the juvenile proceedings should be confidential,” Kuhn said. “Certain things should be, of course, but it’s a dangerous, dangerous concept to have a completely closed courtroom.”

Barnes, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services Watch Legal Team, revealed that the court has been listening to jailhouse tapes of Alamo’s conversations with his followers on the phone and during visitations.

“Just because I’m in here doesn’t mean I’m not in charge, OK, kid,” Alamo said in a jail tape that was played during his federal criminal trial in July.

Alamo, 75, was convicted of all 10 counts listed on a federal indictment accusing him of bringing young girls across state lines for sex. He was sentenced to serve 175 years in prison. Alamo, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, left a county jail in Texarkana this week in the company of federal marshals.

The tapes are likely being played to support requirements in family reunification plans for parents to find housing and employment independent of Alamo Ministries.

Barnes said Kuhn filed a motion asking that the housing and employment directives be eliminated from reunification case plans.

Four of the families’ hearings are to determine whether parental rights should be terminated and two are review hearings to give the court an idea of whether the parents are completing the requirements for reunification.

The issue has been a hurdle many of the Alamo devotees are unwilling to jump. Members live on ministry property, labor unpaid as volunteers for the ministry and are provided food, shelter and other necessities.

Barnes said she believes policies concerning inmate communication within the federal bureau of prisons will make it impossible for Alamo to continue to rule his organization.

If assets and properties controlled by the convicted child sex abuser are seized in the future to satisfy court ordered fines and restitution, the loyalists may be forced to acquire outside housing and employment anyway, Barnes said.

In: 2010

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