5/29/13 – TG: Alamo’s lawyer accuses another of sullying his reputation in court filings

Texarkana Gazette
May 29, 2013
By: Lynn LaRowe – Texarkana Gazette

Alamo’s lawyer accuses another of sullying his reputation in court filings

A Missouri lawyer who represents imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo claims his reputation has been wrongfully besmirched in court documents by a lawyer who represents former Alamo Ministry members.

Last week, Texarkana lawyer David Carter filed a motion asking the court to deny a motion filed by John Rogers of Clayton, Mo., asking that Rogers be withdrawn as the attorney of record for 62 Alamo loyalists.

Rogers filed notices of ownership claims on the Alamo Ministry members’ behalves concerning six properties in Fort Smith, Ark., that a federal judge has ruled can be sold to partially satisfy a $30 million judgment Alamo owes to two men, Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek, who were raised in Alamo’s controversial group.

A jury found Alamo guilty of conspiracy, battery and outrage in a civil suit Carter filed on Ondrisek’s and Calagna’s behalf. Carter and Irving, Texas, lawyer Neil Smith were recently granted permission by U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant to sell six Fort Smith properties associated with Alamo ministries.

Carter described Rogers’ motion to withdraw as counsel and a motion to delay a hearing scheduled for May 30 to address ownership claims on the Fort Smith properties as a stall tactic.

Rogers filed a brief Friday that accuses Carter of playing “fast and loose with accusations about the integrity and honesty of the undersigned attorney.”

Rogers said he never intended to represent the loyalists who claim they communally and collectively own properties associated with Alamo ministries, in the motion he filed Friday. Rogers’ motion states he simply filed the members’ claims as a courtesy.

“Counsel is aware of no rule, local or otherwise, that indicates that mailing of a courtesy letter, without any assertion of representation, serves as an entry of appearance and maintains that his appearance was entered in error,” Rogers’ motion states.

Rogers’ motion states he has diligently tried to find other lawyers to represent the members in the property dispute.

Rogers claims despite his best efforts, finding lawyers who are not conflicted from representing the members because of their involvement in ancillary cases and who are willing to represent the members, has been difficult.

Rogers’ motions states not only did he never agree to represent any of the members with property claims, but he cannot represent them because of his role as Tony Alamo’s lawyer.

“Counsel is aware that several claimants have intended for some time to file a lawsuit against Mr. Alamo … in Sebastian County,” Rogers’ motion states. “Claimants make claims against properties that were deemed by this court to belong to or be held for Tony Alamo. While Mr. Alamo disputes this ruling, claimants are nevertheless asserting claims against Alamo in this proceeding by virtue of the court’s ruling.”

Bryant agreed with arguments by Carter and Smith in earlier filings and hearings that the properties are actually held for the benefit and profit of Alamo. Carter and Smith described the ministry’s practice of shuffling ownership of real estate among members as a quitclaim scheme.

When a property is purchased at Alamo’s direction, the title is placed in the name of one or more ministry members in good standing. However the listed owners sign undated quitclaim deeds that are held in the Alamo Ministry office.

If a member listed as a property owner falls from Alamo’s favor, the quitclaim deed is dated and filed, transferring ownership to a different member. Carter and Smith argued that this practice was designed to shield Alamo from financial responsibility in civil actions like Ondrisek’s and Calagna’s.

Rogers previously argued the properties belong to the members as a group. Bryant rejected that argument, noting Arkansas law doesn’t permit property ownership by unincorporated groups.

Rogers’ motion argues that the hearing slated for Thursday before Bryant should be postponed.

Bryant recently ordered that any person with a property claim should appear at the hearing.

Rogers’ motion complains the members and/or lawyers they may have recently hired to represent them need time to prepare.

“Counsel notes that these proceedings involve an ill-defined area of Arkansas law, where there is little established precedent,” Rogers’ motion states. “The understandable challenge in legal counsel getting up to speed with this area certainly affected the willingness of other counsel to get involved. … Counsel suggests that herding claimants into a hearing that seeks to determine their rights without a meaningful opportunity, given the circumstances, to prepare or secure competent counsel is a violation of due process.”

Rogers suggests in his motion that the May 30 hearing be delayed 45 days to give the Alamo loyalists and any lawyers they might hire, time to prepare arguments.

In: 2013, Breaking News

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