3/21/2014 – TG: Alamo ‘wives’ win big lawsuit. Evangelist must pay more than half a billion dollars

Texarkana Gazette
March 21, 2014
By: Lynn LaRowe – Texarkana Gazette

Alamo ‘wives’ win big lawsuit
Evangelist must pay more than half a billion dollars

A circuit judge in Miller County, Ark., ordered imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo to pay more than half a billion dollars in damages to seven women he sexually and physically abused.

Six of the women were taken by Alamo as “spiritual wives” when they were children. The seventh was being groomed to be a wife in Alamo’s polygamous home when she ran away at age 15. Alamo is serving a 175-year federal prison sentence for bringing five of the women across state lines for sex when they were minors.

Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson entered a default judgment Thursday against Alamo, 79, individually. Alamo failed to respond to a civil lawsuit filed by the women in Miller County. Alamo’s silence allowed Texarkana lawyer David Carter to seek the default judgment and damages award. The judgment is identical to one Johnson levied last month against Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church, an arm of Alamo Ministries. The judgments against Twenty First and Alamo are the largest personal injury judgments in Arkansas history, Carter said.

At Thursday’s hearing in a third-floor courtroom of Miller County Courthouse in downtown Texarkana, Ark., Carter asked Johnson to take notice of exhibits filed and testimony offered at the hearing concerning a default judgment against Twenty First on Feb. 24. Carter provided the court with hundreds of pages of deposition testimony by Alamo in 2012 and 2013.

“He acknowledges to some degree the abuse of the plaintiffs,” Carter said. “He also talks about the hundreds of millions of dollars a year he has earned.”

Carter provided Johnson a copy of a November 2013 opinion inked by federal U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant that found Alamo controls not only the property associated with his controversial congregation, but also the personal lives of his followers.

“He’s still doing this. Even from prison,” Carter said. “We’re suggesting the same damages as Twenty First Century for his more than 20 years of abuse against these women.”

At the end of the hearing, Johnson mentioned the multimillion-dollar judgment against Twenty First.

“The court has previously held that $525 million is an appropriate damages award for their acquiescence to these heinous acts,” Johnson said. “The court has read each and every one of the psychological evaluations of the young ladies in this case … the abuse and underage marriages.”

At last month’s hearing, Carter and Irving, Texas, lawyer Neil Smith introduced correspondence discovered during a search of ministry properties in Fouke, Ark., near Texarkana, which alleges water rights on property Alamo holds in California under the names of followers are worth several billion dollars. The property is in Santa Clarita, Calif., not far from Los Angeles. Carter said the Twenty First judgment has been filed in a California court and that he’ll be seeking court approval to sell the California properties to satisfy the judgment.

Johnson’s docket entry in the case against Alamo states the judgment against the polygamist pastor will mirror the one against Twenty First.

Desiree Kolbek, Amy Eddy, Jeanette Orlando and Summer Hagan—four of the five women listed as victims in Alamo’s federal criminal case—each received $29 million in actual damages and $58 million in punitive damages. Jamie Rodriguez, who was a listed victim in Alamo’s criminal case, received $22 million in actual damages and $44 million in punitive damages. Nicole Farr, who was being groomed to be an Alamo wife during her last years in the ministry, received $10 million in actual damages and $20 million in punitive damages. Pebbles Rodriguez, who left Alamo after his criminal conviction, received $27 million in actual damages and $54 million in punitive damages.

In: 2014, Breaking News

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