1/8/09 – Alamo defense requests delay; Trial was initially set for Nov. 19, but per a defense request for a continuance, that date was moved to Feb. 2

Texarkana Gazette
January 8, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo defense requests delay

Tony Alamo’s defense attorney filed a motion Wednesday asking that the jailed evangelist’s criminal trial be postponed.

But the U.S. government is opposing it.

Among the reasons for a continuance included in Alamo’s motion is his defense attorney’s desire to serve on a jury.

“Defendant’s lead counsel just found he is up for jury duty in the Eastern District of Arkansas for February 2009,” wrote John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock in the motion, referring to himself.

“He has been registered to vote since 1969 and … has never received a jury summons. While lawyers and judges may find jurors a necessary evil, it is still a civic duty for the person called, and defense counsel really wants to know what they talk about in there.”

Hall goes on to say he believes the experience will “really be educational” and that he will not be asking for an excuse from jury service because “none is legally available.”

A summons for jury duty isn’t a good enough reason to delay a trial scheduled in federal court, said an unsupportive response to Alamo’s motion filed late Wednesday afternoon by the government.

The government response noted that while “… jury duty is one of the most important civic responsibilities in the United States, it does not establish a compelling reason …”

The response asks if Hall considered delaying jury service instead of the trial. The response suggests Hall could request that his name be placed on a list of potential jurors for a future panel or inquire about the possibility of being excused from service for several weeks while the trial proceeds.

In addition to Hall’s argument that he should be permitted to act as a juror in February, he pleads for more time to prepare Alamo’s defense.

When an indictment was first handed down last October, Alamo faced only a two-count federal indictment in the Western District of Arkansas, Texarkana Division. Alamo, whose real name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, is accused of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to transport minors across state lines for sex.

Trial was initially set for Nov. 19, but per a defense request for a continuance, that date was moved to Feb. 2.

In November, eight additional counts of wrongdoing were added to the existing two in a superseding indictment. The 74-year-old is accused of informally marrying girls as young as 9, according to court documents.

Several of the alleged victims listed in the 10-count indictment describe having their nude photos taken by Alamo with a Polaroid camera and being encouraged to watch pornographic videos to learn sexual techniques.

The accounts of sex with girls as young as 8 allege interstate travel dating back to 1994.

“The defense believes there is a potential statute of limitations argument as to a few counts that still needs to be explored and resolved before the jury hears about it,” said the motion. “The defense has been investigating but it is time consuming.”

The government’s motion cites factors it says are commonly relied upon by the court of appeals when determining whether to grant a continuance.

“Time required and already permitted for trial preparation, diligence of moving party, conduct of the other party, effect of delay and reasons …” given, the response said.

The government’s motion calculates Hall had 33 days between the time Alamo was arraigned in federal court and his original trial date. When he was granted his first request for a continuance, Hall received an extra 75 days to ready his case, the response said.

“Additionally, the nature of the allegations in the superseding indictment are not particularly complex and do not require an extended period of time in which to prepare a defense,” said the response.

However, the government does concede that the eight new charges, concerning four alleged victims that were not included in the original indictment, “… add charges and evidence …”

Although the government wants the court to turn down Hall’s request, it asks that in the event a continuance is granted, it be a brief one.

As his and the government’s lawyers file their motions, Alamo sits in a cell in the jail annex behind the Bi-State Justice Building in downtown Texarkana.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant declined to release the controversial church leader at an October detention hearing, citing a danger to the community and the risk of flight he believes Alamo presents.

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