5/22/13 – TG: Alamo follower asks for delay in hearing over property dispute

Texarkana Gazette
May 22, 2013
By: Lynn LaRowe – Texarkana Gazette

Alamo follower asks for delay in hearing over property dispute

A Texarkana lawyer representing two men owed $15 million each by imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo describes recent filings by Alamo’s lawyer as a predictable stall tactic in a response filed Tuesday.

Alamo’s lawyer, John Rogers of Clayton, Mo., has filed ownership claims on behalf of 63 Alamo loyalists in the weeks since a federal judge ruled April 15 that six Fort Smith, Ark., properties can be sold. The property sale is meant to partially satisfy a $30 million judgment Alamo owes to Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek for abuses they suffered as children raised in the ministry.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant agreed in his April 15 ruling with arguments from Texarkana lawyer David Carter and Irving, Texas, lawyer Neil Smith that the properties are actually bought and controlled at Alamo’s direction and for his benefit and profit.

Carter and Smith argued at a hearing in early April that Alamo operates a “quitclaim scheme” to shield himself from financial accountability. Properties are placed in the names of loyal followers. The listed owners sign quitclaim deeds that are left undated and filed in the ministry’s office. If a member falls from Alamo’s favor, the deed is dated and filed, transferring ownership to a member in good standing.

But the members maintain that the properties belong to all members of Alamo’s controversial group collectively.

Bryant rejected that argument in his ruling, noting unincorporated groups cannot own property under Arkansas law. A hearing to address ownership claims is scheduled for May 30.

Friday, Rogers filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for the 63 Alamo Ministry members. Rogers’ motion states he filed the claims as a courtesy and did not intend to represent anyone associated with Alamo Ministries except Tony Alamo and his wife, Sharon Alamo.

Shortly after Rogers filed his motion Friday, Sally Demoulin, a longtime Alamo follower who acts as bookkeeper for the group, filed a motion on her own behalf asking that the hearing set for May 30 be delayed. Demoulin’s motion complains she and the other members need time to find lawyers.

“Both of these motions were filed in an attempt to delay these proceedings and should be denied,” Carter wrote in a response filed Tuesday. “As this court is fully aware, Tony Alamo has a well-established record of attempting to discharge counsel for purposes of securing continuances, only to rehire counsel when a continuance is denied. The motion for withdrawal and motion for continuance filed herein are the latest verses from the same old hymn.”

During his criminal trial, Alamo hired and fired lawyers several times. During civil proceedings, Alamo rehired a lawyer he fired during his criminal trial, fired him again, rehired him and fired him, before hiring Rogers.

Carter points out Rogers and the members he filed ownership claims for have known of the May 30 hearing for a month.

“Allowing Rogers to withdraw his representation at this late stage would prejudice plaintiffs and force an undue burden on the court, which has established a specific time frame for resolving claims of ownership, as well as the published notice for sale of the properties. If Rogers is allowed to withdraw at all, he should not be permitted to do so until after the scheduled hearing on May 30, 2013,” Carter wrote.

Carter argues Demoulin in particular has had plenty of time to get a lawyer.

“Ms. Demoulin testified at length about the fraudulent deed scheme utilized by Tony Alamo and his followers on a number of occasions, including her deposition of Oct. 5, 2012,” Carter wrote. “She had ample time to secure counsel of her own in this matter if she so desired. However, Ms. Demoulin elected to wait until the last minute to ‘seek counsel’ and did so at her own peril. Lastly, since Ms. Demoulin is one of the claimants for whom Rogers filed a claim, she is currently represented by counsel, making her point moot.”

In her motion to delay the hearing, Demoulin notes that Carter has filed a second motion seeking the court’s permission to sell more properties in Texarkana, Ark., Fouke, Ark., and Fort Smith, Ark., which are associated with Alamo.

Demoulin asks the court to delay the hearing on the six Fort Smith properties listed in the original writ that Bryant has given the green light to sell until the court has addressed the second writ.

Demoulin argues that delaying the hearing will avoid the possibility of multiple hearings on property claims.

Carter said he is not asking the court to address the second writ at this time.

Demoulin’s motion indicates that she and the other members intend to further complicate the property issue by filing a motion for declaratory judgment in state court.

“A number of claimants have retained counsel to file a declaratory judgment action in the circuit court of Sebastian County, seeking declaration of their rights in the properties at issue in the execution proceedings and/or the imposition of a constructive or resulting trust, and claimant anticipates that such action will be filed within the next week,” Demoulin’s motion states.

Carter said he does not believe the Alamo loyalists will have any luck taking their complaints to a state court.

“I’m not sure what these folks intend to do, but the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas has exercised jurisdiction over these properties, which are now in the custody of the U.S. Marshal,” Carter said. “We anticipate the Marshal will conduct a public sale of the properties. I think it is unlikely that a state court will interfere with that process.”

Alamo is serving a 175-year federal prison sentence for bringing women he wed as children across state lines for sex.

In: 2013, Breaking News

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