7/21/10 – AP: Alamo seeks new trial in Arkansas sexual abuse case

The Commercial Appeal (Memphis)
July 21, 2010
Chuck Bartels, The Associated Press

Evangelist seeks new trial in Arkansas sexual abuse case

Jailed evangelist Tony Alamo wants a federal appeals court to grant him a new trial on charges he transported minors across state lines for sex or at least order a resentencing because of the trial judge’s references to God.

Alamo attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. argued in a brief submitted to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis that prosecutors failed to show that sex was the primary purpose for taking young girls from state to state.

Alamo was arrested in Arizona in 2008 after he fled his compound in Fouke in southwestern Arkansas, where he was accused of harboring young girls as his “wives.” State child services workers took 36 children into protective custody and later tried to find about 100 other children of Alamo’s followers who went into hiding with ministry members.

“The government argues that Alamo is guilty because any purported sex was incidental to the purpose of the travel. If sexual conduct, however, is merely incidental to the travel, then no crime has occurred because something being ‘incidental’ belies ‘a dominant purpose as required by the jury instruction and the case law,” Hall wrote in the brief submitted Monday. “They are a contradiction in terms.”

Oral arguments have not been set, but Hall said Wednesday the soonest date would be some time in September.

Hall argues that U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes abused his discretion and violated Hall’s right to due process when he injected his “own sense of religiosity” as he sentenced Alamo to 175 years in prison.

Alamo, 75, was found guilty in 2009 of 10 counts of violating the federal Mann Act, which prohibits taking minors from one state to another for sexual purposes. Alamo was also ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution, $500,000 each to five Jane Does with whom Alamo allegedly had sex, plus a $250,000 fine.

Alamo maintained his innocence throughout.

At the Nov. 13 sentencing hearing, Barnes told Alamo that the “life imprisonment” sentence would “send a message to others that violation of children, young girls like these victims, shall not be and will not be tolerated.”

The judge also told Alamo that “one day you will face a higher and greater judge than me. May he have mercy on your soul.”

Hall asks the appeals court to order a resentencing by a different judge.

“The sentence here becomes unreasonable … by the mere likelihood of religious influence,” Hall said in the filing.

Alamo himself mentioned God when offered a chance to speak at sentencing.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. I’m glad I’m me and not the deceived people,” Alamo said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Plumlee, chief of criminal prosecutions for Arkansas’ Western District said Wednesday that he hadn’t seen Hall’s filing and that his office would address Hall’s claims in oral arguments. Hall’s filing was a response to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner’s reply to Hall’s initial appeal brief.

Jenner said in her filing that Barnes was asked during the November hearing to clarify Alamo’s sentence, and he responded that the prison term conformed to federal sentencing guidelines.

In her earlier brief, Jenner noted that the girls were between ages 8 and 14 when Alamo brought them into his house.

“They testified they were transported in interstate commerce with Alamo or transported across state lines at Alamo’s direction. Sexual contact with Alamo occurred during or immediately after,” Jenner wrote.

“Accordingly, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find Alamo’s intent to transport the minor females in interstate commerce — and a dominant motive for their travel — was to ensure his access to them for his own sexual gratification.”

Jenner wrote that the record shows that Barnes followed multiple elements of the sentencing guidelines, considering Alamo’s record, the age of the victims and Alamo’s custody or supervisory control of the victims.

“Accordingly, the district court did not base Alamo’s sentence on an impermissible factor such as religion,” Jenner wrote.

Alamo is being held in the maximum security wing of a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., the prison confirmed Wednesday.

In: 2010

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