6/2/11 – TG: Plaintiff’s mother calls Alamo, Kolbek heroes in spankings Testimony continues in civil trial ***COMMENTS***

Texarkana Gazette
June 2, 2011
By: Lynn LaRowe

Plaintiff’s mother calls Alamo, Kolbeck heroes in spankings
Testimony continues in civil trial

The mother of a former Tony Alamo Christian Ministries member testified in a civil trial Wednesday that she considers Tony Alamo and his alleged enforcer, John Kolbek, heroes.

Betty Calagna, mother of Seth Calagna, told the jury that a public “spanking” her son received with a wooden paddle from 6-foot -4-inch Kolbek at Alamo’s direction was “the best thing that ever happened to him.”

Seth Calagna, 21, and Spencer Ondrisek, 20, filed suit against Alamo and Kolbek in 2008, alleging battery, conspiracy and outrage. The case against Alamo was severed from Kolbek’s, since Kolbek, who was a fugitive wanted for beating Calagna, never answered the complaint.

U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes awarded the men a $3 million default judgment against Kolbek, who died earlier this year on a farm in rural Kentucky.

Alamo is serving a 175-year term for sex crimes in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Testimony began Tuesday in the case against Alamo, whose wife is sitting as his proxy at the defense table. Both sides rested at the end of the day Wednesday.

The first witness to testify Wednesday was Seth Calagna. Under questioning from Texarkana attorney David Carter, he told the jury he was awakened by his parents at 4 a.m. and told Alamo wanted to talk to him. Seth Calagna told the jury he didn’t realize what was happening until his parents and Alamo walked him into the gym at the ministry’s Fouke, Ark., compound and he saw Kolbek waiting with a paddle.

Calagna testified that Kolbek began slapping him about the face.

“He grabbed me by my hair and pulled me up because I had fallen.”

Calagna testified that he was held on the floor while Kolbek stood above him swinging the paddle straight down on his buttocks about 40 times.

“It went on and on. He just kept hitting me. I just kept screaming and screaming.”

Calagna said his father, Tony Calagna, told him “not to fight it” and that Alamo told him to “scream out to God.”

“On the way out, I said thank you to John Kolbek for beating me because I believed that whatever I did wrong, I’d been forgiven for, and I wasn’t going to hell anymore,” Calagna testified.

Calagna said a few weeks later when he was summoned to the gym, he saw Ondrisek being beaten. He testified that he was forced to watch Kolbek beat his father by swinging the paddle “baseball style.”

Calagna said his father had been given the choice of leaving the church or being beaten.

“It was horrible to watch my dad get beat. It really messed with my head,” Calagna said. “In a sense, it kind of numbed me.”

Calagna said when he was 17, he was beaten a second time by Kolbek at a warehouse in Fort Smith, Ark., after another member reported him for making a comment about Harry Potter.

Calagna said Kolbek slapped his face as he ushered him from a room in the warehouse. He said Kolbek pulled his pants down during the beating, since he was wearing layers of clothes.

Under questioning from Alamo’s attorney, John Wesley Hall of Little Rock, Calagna admitted to making prank phone calls to the ministry, during which he boasted about a potential judgment in the lawsuit.

Calagna testified that he made the calls to make himself feel better and that his experiences at Alamo Ministries have led him to reject God.

Hall called several defense witnesses, who testified they witnessed the discipline received by Ondrisek and Calagna.

Phillip Avila, 20, testified that he was swatted by Kolbek after he and Ondrisek were caught playing with squirt bottles of cleaners.

Avila claims his eyes were burned and permanently damaged by something that Ondrisek sprayed.

Avila testified that he was slapped by Kolbek and paddled for lying about the incident. He testified that he and Ondrisek were each paddled six times.

Ondrisek testified Tuesday that he was struck 20 to 30 times with the paddle after being slapped in the face about 20 times.

Avila denied that Kolbek slapped Ondrisek.

Angela Morales, who is reported to be one of Alamo’s wives, testified Wednesday that Ondrisek was slapped. Morales said that at his third beating, Ondrisek was given 20 “swats” because he was a “repeat offender.”

Morales told the jury Ondrisek’s hand was not injured as he attempted to block the paddle during his third encounter with Kolbek. But Tony Alamo’s son, who changed his name last year from Sion Alamo to Sion Lazar, testified that he did notice a couple of Ondrisek’s fingers appeared to have suffered minor injuries.

Donn Wolf, who clutched a 90-pound dumbbell weight to his chest as he entered the courtroom, testified that Ondrisek had no trouble lifing weights in the months after the spanking during which he allegedly injured his hand.

All of the witnesses who said they’d seen beatings claimed the men were not abused or too severely punished. They said the Bible sanctions such discipline. They also said Alamo was wrongly convicted.

Sharon Alamo, who said she is Alamo’s common-law wife, testified that the “spankings” handed out to members with “continuous problems” were “not out of viciousness or hatred. Actually it’s out of love.”

Under cross-examination by Carter, Sharon Alamo answered questions about a default judgment entered against Alamo in the 1988 beating of 11-year-old Justin Miller on ministry property in California. Portions of U.S. District Judge Morris Arnold’s decision were read.

“No feeling person could fail to be moved by the testimony in this case or to be revolted by the cold-blooded and calculated manner in which the punishment of Justin Miller was carried out,” the order said.

After Hall rested the defense’s case, Carter called Alsandria Reid to rebut.

Reid was one of six girls removed by the Arkansas Department of Human Services during a raid of the Fouke compound Sept. 20, 2008. She said the members all knew that when Kolbek was around, someone was in for a paddling.

Reid said she once watched as Kolbek dragged a 12- or 13-year-old girl into another room by her feet.

“She was screaming, some long, some short. It lasted about 15 to 20 minutes,” Reid said. “She was dragged out of the room like she was an animal.”

Closing arguments should start today.

In: 2011

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One Post

  1. S. Balsley Says:

    The testimonies from people who have left the Alamo Foundation are to be believed. They have already lost everything and have nothing else to lose. They understand by telling the truth, it sets you free.

    However those who still abide in the Alamo Foundation have everything to lose if they do not lie and minimize the child abuse beatings, by calling it a spanking. These people are supported by the foundation, their food, housing and clothing…If they told the truth they would be thrown out on the street like an “old alley cat”, separated from their mate and children…just dumped off with nothing but the clothes on their backs..

    These articles have brought back many painful memories. My sons, as were many other foundation children, beaten 10 -140 swats ordered by Tony Alamo. These Alamo supporters believe Tony Alamo is a prophet and whatever he says comes from God, that equates to- Tony Alamo would not tell you to do something wrong.. These vicious attacks on the foundation children are called spankings, but in reality they are severe cases of child abuse..
    I use to be one of Tony Alamo’s biggest supporters until I saw and heard his twisted versions of events. My son was suspended in mid-air, spread eagle and beaten 140 times with a board, ordered by Tony Alamo. His offense… he had a crush on his classmate. Another time he was beaten 80 swats- ordered by Tony Alamo because his classmate had gotten married over the weekend and she showed my son her wedding ring.. He slipped the ring on his pointer finger to admire the ring.. The next thing we knew we were at Tony’s house. Tony Alamo said he committed adultery and was beaten 80 times with a board… Severe punishment for what??? Tony Alamo’s twisted reasons… I am so glad Tony Alamo will be behind bars for another 173 years, but I have great concerns about his followers still being able to execute this type of judgments on the children growing up inside the Alamo Foundation..

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