11/21/08 – Alamo lawyer asks courts for assistance in parents’ cases

Texarkana Gazette
November 21, 2008
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo lawyer asks courts for assistance in parents’ cases

Preparations for an initial hearing for 20 children taken this week from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries proceeded Thursday even as final custody hearings continued for six girls removed from the compound two months ago.

Allegations of sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect led to the removals.

Tony Alamo’s lead defense attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock, sent a letter to the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts asking for help on behalf of the parents of the 20 children.

“I request that your office take an active role in finding counsel to protect the family and Constitutional rights of these people and that somebody responsible be at court on Monday to assure that this case will move forward with the best possible representation for all and not become a legal black hole because of lack of legal representation,” Hall’s letter said.

Officials with the Administrative Office of the Courts could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson will conduct one hearing Monday morning to determine if enough probable cause exists to keep the children in foster care.

“Since 20 children have been seized from multiple families, at the minimum, at least 10 lawyers would be needed to represent the parents and the children,” said the letter, which notes Alamo Ministries is already funding Alamo’s defense and paying for two lawyers to represent the parents of the six girls taken Sept. 20.

“Because of the time limits involved, those cases are going on alternate days in two separate courts,” said Hall of the ongoing custody hearings for the girls before Circuit Judges Jim Hudson and Joe Griffin.

“The lawyers in those cases are literally exhausted from going into the night on one case, not finishing it, and picking up the next morning on another case … I don’t know how they can do it,” Hall wrote.

Hudson began hearings Monday for two of the girls that did not resume until Thursday morning. Griffin began hearings for two pairs of sisters Tuesday. The hearing resumed Wednesday and continued until after 10 p.m. Griffin’s cases will resume again when Hudson’s end.

Hudson listened Thursday morning to two adult former followers, a man and a woman, testify about their alleged experiences with Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. The videotaped testimony of witnesses who are minors was heard in the afternoon.

Hudson’s hearings will continue today.

Hall’s letter also makes reference to more than 100 other children whose names were included on a civil court order for removal in Miller County.

“If the other 106-plus potential children are found, at least another 80 lawyers would be needed for them,” Hall wrote.

Alamo, the ministry’s leader, is identified as the father of at least one child on the Miller County order. The mother listed for the child is not Alamo’s legal wife.

The order includes “unknown juveniles” and gives state officials the authority to remove any children found on the ministry’s properties.

A court order was also signed allowing removal by the Arkansas Department of Human Services of children living on Alamo properties in Fort Smith, Ark. No children were found on the sites listed on the Sebastian County court order.

“And, how many are needed in Miller County and how many in Sebastian County, I have no idea,” Hall’s letter said.

DHS spokeswoman Julie Munsell said no additional children were taken into custody Thursday.

Including the six girls placed in foster care in September, 11 boys and 15 girls, whose parents are loyal to Alamo’s teachings, have been taken into state custody.

In: 2008 - (Trial year)

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