11/2/11 – TG: Judge denies Alamo attorney’s request to halt civil lawsuit

Texarkana Gazette
November 2, 2011
By: Lynn LaRowe

Judge denies Alamo attorney’s request to halt civil lawsuit

A federal judge has denied defense requests to halt proceedings in a civil lawsuit filed by former wives of Tony Alamo.

The suit was filed in August 2010 by six women who testified against him at his July 2009 criminal trial. Alamo was convicted of bringing five women he wed as children across state lines for sex. Later that year, Alamo was sentenced to 175 years in federal prison. He has been ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution to each of the five women.

The original petition also included a woman who testified she escaped from Alamo’s house while being groomed to be a wife. The civil suit was later amended to add a former wife who left the ministry and Alamo after Alamo’s conviction and after the suit was filed.

Initially, the suit named Alamo Ministry controlled businesses and several high-ranking individuals in the organization as defendants. The suit was amended by the plaintiffs to include as a defendant the owner of a security company that once provided armed guards to patrol ministry property in Fouke, Ark.

Later, the defendants filed petitions to have the parents of the girls and Sharon Alamo and Tony Alamo, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, added as defendants as well.

Lawyers representing individuals and businesses accused of knowing about and allowing Alamo to sexually abuse young girls asked U.S. District Judge Paul K. Holmes to stay the case amid concerns the defendants are targets of an active criminal investigation by the government.

Cited as evidence of such an investigation in a motion filed by Alamo’s attorney, John Wesley Hall of Little Rock, is an Oct. 11 visit to Alamo Ministry properties in Fouke, Ark., by a U.S. Attorney’s Office financial investigator.

“A representative of the USAO stated that the investigator was there for restitutionary purposes, but defendants theorize that the investigator may, in fact, have been there to collect information which could be used to prosecute others for what happened on those properties,” Holmes’ order states.

Hall’s motion also points to the government’s refusal to provide certain documents requested by defendants as support for the pending criminal investigation theory.

In his analysis of the request, Holmes notes the suit alleges violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The TVPRA allows the government to intervene and request a stay of a civil suit in a case it plans to prosecute criminally, Holmes’ order states.

But Holmes ruled that the law does not permit civil defendants to request a halt to proceedings in cases it speculates may be the subject of a criminal investigation.

“If such evidence were able to subject a civil case to an automatic stay, victims bringing actions under the TVPRA could often be denied justice, having their trial delayed indefinitely by a civil defendant who merely theorizes that an investigation might possibly be ongoing. Such an application of the statute would be nonsensical. …” Holmes wrote.

Holmes’ order addresses another issue in the case.

“Communication between the parties, or lack thereof, seems to be a recurring issue raised in the various filings, and miscommunication and misunderstandings often result in a flurry of yet more docket entries,” the order states.

Holmes expresses a desire the lawyers work together to eliminate excessive filings.

He cites numerous motions filed by the defendants concerning their desire to halt the case as examples.

“In an effort to reduce confusion, consternation, and the continuance of duplicative and overzealous filings regarding this issue, the court sets forth its findings as to the stay issue. …” the order states.

The case is scheduled for trial next year.

In: 2011

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