1/1/09 – Girl’s confidential court documents placed on Internet

Texarkana Gazette
January 1, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Web gets a peek at Alamo case
Girl’s confidential court documents placed on Internet

A video of a 16-year-old girl speaking with a forensic interviewer the day after she was removed from Tony Alamo’s residence in Fouke, Ark., has been placed on the Internet.

Filmed at the Child Advocacy Center in Texarkana, the video was intended only for use by law enforcement, the courts and child welfare officials. The Arkansas Department of Human Services filed a motion late Wednesday afternoon to have the hosting Website,, remove the video and related material.

“The damage is already done,” said Julie Munsell, DHS director of communications. “This is a confidentiality issue. We want to protect these children. This is also preventive.”

According to the Website, the video, a letter signed with the girl’s mother’s name, photos and copies of court documents were handed over by the girl’s own parents.

DHS wants a judge in Miller County to issue an order forbidding distribution of court documents and other evidence, such as video interviews, in the future.

Danita Abernathy, the executive director of Texarkana’s CAC, said only the agency that requested CAC perform the interview would have had a copy of it.

“The Texarkana CAC absolutely does not provide copies of forensic interviews. That DVD is the property of the referring agency and that’s where it goes. The chain of custody is documented,” said Abernathy.

“We protect the interest of chlidren and their rights in every way and we do not release information to anyone, especially a parent in a situation like this. They’re not even allowed to be present at the center,” Abernathy said.

Wednesday, Circuit Judge Jim Hudson granted a motion filed by the girl’s parents and the father of another girl placed in foster care in September to have the court appoint lawyers at state expense to replace the ones Alamo Ministries hired to represent them during final custody hearings in November.

During those proceedings, lawyers representing the parents, Marshall Moore and David James of Texarkana, were provided with documents, videos and any other evidence DHS intended to use against them during custody proceedings as prescribed by law.

That evidence might have then been available to the parents as well.

Moore did not return calls to his office Wednesday.

In the interview video, the girl describes Alamo in glowing terms, denies he’s ever molested anyone and expresses a belief that natural disasters around the world are the work of God and a sign the end is near.

She also denied ever having been abused.

“(The girl’s mother) stated, ‘I want John Kolbek to beat (the girl). (The girl) was no older than 12 years at the time of her beating. (The girl) was also beaten with a paddle when she was 14 years of age during one of three beatings which (her 18-year-old brother) suffered at the hands of John Kolbek at the direction of Tony Alamo,” said the adjudication order Hudson wrote following final custody hearings for the girl and one other Nov. 21.

John Kolbek is wanted by federal and state officials. In Sebastian County in Arkansas, he faces a charge of second-degree battery in connection with the alleged beating of Seth Calagna, an 18-year-old former Alamo follower. Calagna was allegedly beaten with a 6-foot-long wooden paddle that allegedly left him bloody and bruised. Federal officials have issued a warrant for Kolbek’s arrest for unlawful flight from prosecution.

“What matters is the truth as found by the evidence in court … and what any appellate reviewing court finds the truth to be of the trial court’s findings,” Hudson said.

Among the documents posted on the Internet are the first few pages of Hudson’s adjudication order. The pages that describe beatings of followers, forced fasts, underage marriages and the sexual abuse of a young girl by Alamo were not among them.

A letter bearing the girl’s mother’s signature describes the 36 children seized by the state as having been “kidnapped” and Hudson’s court order as unconstitutional. Photos of the home she shares with her husband, their children and another family were uploaded as well.

A shot of the home’s exterior bears a sticky note that reads, “What’s wrong with my house? Judge Hudson used to live here.”

Hudson said he did reside in the Texarkana, Ark., home more than 30 years ago.

Photos of the girl and other ministry children engaged in fun activities can also be viewed on the site. One of the photos shows the girl placing a Tony Alamo Newsletter beneath the windshield of a car.

In the video, she describes passing out literature and talking about her religion as one of her favorite things to do.

“All the ministry’s about is to win souls for Christ,” the girl said. “I believe everything he (Alamo) says.”

In the video, the girl said she believes girls should be able to marry when they reach puberty.

“That’s when your body’s able to have children. Why would God make it that way if you weren’t supposed to?” the girl said.

The girl told the CAC worker she spends her days working in the ministry’s mailroom and doesn’t need more education than that which she has already received as a home-schooled student at the ministry.

As she spoke, the fingers locked around her bare left knee moved with the bounce of a moving foot.

She remains in foster care and now attends a public school.

The girl visited briefly with her parents in the courtroom after Hudson announced his decision to keep the girls in state custody Nov. 21. After hugging them, she hurried to her foster mother. As the pair walked with arms draped around each other’s shoulders from the Miller County Juvenile Court Center, the girl said, “Can we go home now?”

Her parents have been receiving weekly supervised visits with her. They are not allowed to mention anything dealing with the custody case or any related criminal matter.

Hudson’s Nov. 21 ruling included a plan for reunification if the parents would agree to sever economic, residential and employment ties with the church.

“The court finds that (the parents) provide valuable services to Tony Alamo Ministries, on average 40 hours per week. Though the parents state this is voluntary, the Tony Alamo Ministries, in effect, provide room, board, and all living expenses to (the parents),” said Hudson’s order signed Wednesday granting the parents permission to use lawyers from the Arkansas Public Defender’s Commission in future proceedings.

“(The parents) were provided legal services for the trial of this matter by the Tony Alamo Ministries in an amount between $17,000 and $20,000 but that group has refused to pay any of the parents’ expenses for an appeal,” Hudson’s order said. “Today, they cannot retain appellate counsel or pay the costs of appeal. They can, and should be required to pay at least some legal expenses at the conclusion of this case.”

An appeal by the parents means a higher court will be asked to review the transcripts from Hudson’s court and determine if his ruling to keep the girls in foster care was just.

In his adjudication orders for the two girls assigned to his court, Hudson found as fact that Alamo directed beatings, engages in polygamy and that the church condones the “informal, invalid, marriages between children under the age of 16 to adult males over the age of 21, and in many instances decades older than the age of 21.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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