10/28/08 – No visits or telephone calls in lockup for Tony Alamo

Texarkana Gazette
October 28, 2008
By: Lynn LaRowe

No visits or telephone calls in lockup for evangelist

Jailed evangelist Tony Alamo is not allowed visits or phone calls from anyone but his lawyers, said his lead defense attorney.

“We’re not treating him any differently than any other detainee we have housed in there,” said Supervising Deputy U.S. Marshal Mark Spellman.

Alamo, whose real name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, is being held for federal authorities in the Western District of Arkansas in the Bi-State Justice Building in downtown Texarkana.

The 74-year-old is accused of bringing a 13-year-old girl across state lines for sex in 2004 and of aiding and abetting her transport between California and Arkansas for sex in 2005. He faces life in a federal prison if convicted at his trial, slated to begin Nov. 19.

Alamo’s lead attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock, said he has been led to believe Alamo has been denied phone privileges and visitation.

Spellman said federal prisoners detained in the BJB usually are allowed to visit with family members. Unless a visitor can prove they are married to or a blood relative of the detainee, visitation may not be possible because of standard policy.

At a detention hearing last week. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant denied Alamo’s request for pretrial release.

Bryant found, after hearing more than four hours of testimony, that Alamo presented a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Among those testifying was Richard “Spencer” Ondirsek, a now 18-year-old who left the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke, Ark., in May. Ondirsek described beatings by alleged Alamo enforcer John Kolbeck that were supervised by Alamo himself.

Ondirsek recalled thinking of a scene from the movie “The Shining” when he’d hear Alamo make reference to Kolbeck by saying, “Here’s Johnny.”

Bryant’s Oct. 22 order of detention mentioned Ondirsek’s testimony as evidence of the continued threat Alamo presents to the public.

Kolbeck is wanted by the police in Fort Smith, Ark., where an Alamo Ministries compound, similar to the one in Fouke, operates today.

The warrant, issued at the behest of state officials in Sebastian County on Oct. 16, accuses Kolbeck of beating 17-year-old Seth Calagna at the Fort Smith compound sometime between January and March.

The following account is taken from an arrest affidavit filed in connection with the case.

Calagna was knocked to the concrete floor of a warehouse when he was repeatedly struck by Kolbeck with a 3-foot-long piece of wood.

When Kolbeck realized Calagna’s winter clothes were protecting him from the blows, he ordered his pants pulled down and beat him until the board broke.

Kolbeck’s assault left the teen bruised and bleeding with scars that remain today.

Ondirsek and other witnesses testified at Alamo’s detention hearing that Kolbeck had beaten people as young as 5 and as old as 61.

Kolbeck’s whereabouts are unknown.

In: 2008 - (Trial year)

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