1/9/09 – Parents released ONLY the videos they wanted released – “This is definitely not the whole story”

Texarkana Gazette
January 9, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Parents ordered to remove Web video
Video shows interview with girl about Alamo, church

A judge has ordered two loyal Tony Alamo followers to take immediate steps to have a videotape of their daughter speaking with a forensic interviewer removed from the Internet.

They must also do what they can to get back a copy mailed to President Bush at the White House, according to an order signed by Miller County Circuit Judge Jim Hudson during a hearing on the matter Wednesday afternoon.

“These parents have put their own wishes above the wishes and interests of their children. This was done without any consideration or consent from the children,” said Carla Reyes, the girl’s ad litem attorney. “We would have been happy for the public to hear about beatings that left a child’s skin black for a year. I wish there had been cameras rolling then.”

Reyes said the child she represents was unhappy to learn her face was being seen by millions of strangers.

Reyes spoke not only of the video handed over by the mother of one of six girls removed from ministry property in Fouke, Ark., during a raid in September, but of five other videos received and placed online by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. The newest videos depict five other girls with their faces blurred.

“It is clearly a violation of Arkansas law,” Reyes said.

Julie Munsell, Arkansas Department of Human Services Director of Communication, agreed.

“It’s all the same breach of confidentiality and we are going to have to work to get it removed,” Munsell said. “We take issue with the initial disclosure, not the second party.”

Interviews conducted at Child Advocacy Centers in Arkansas as part of investigations into allegations of abuse and neglect are protected from distribution under state law, said a motion filed by DHS.

“The parents released the videos they wanted released,” Reyes said.

During Thursday’s hearing, the girl’s mother testified under oath she didn’t have access to “subsequent interviews” of her daughter under questioning from DHS lawyer Misty Eubanks.

“You understand you’re under oath, ma’am?” Eubanks asked.

“There is much more material than what has been published in this series of interviews,” Munsell said.

The videos placed on the Internet are of an interview conducted less than 24 hours after the raid. Each contains denials of abuse and idyllic descriptions of life in the church.

“This is definitely not the whole story,” said Danita Abernathy, Texarkana’s CAC and Court Appointed Special Advocates director.

“When children have been traumatized, they often don’t open up immediately,” Munsell said, speaking generally. “Often they will give information they think will lead them immediately home because that is what they know.”

The parents had requested court-appointed lawyers represent them on appeal, as they could no longer afford private attorneys. The Public Defender Commission has declined to represent the parents, since they are supported by Tony Alamo Ministries.

“You will not have the right to appellate counsel at state expense,” Hudson told the couple. “The public defender authorities have made a decision that they are not going to help you with your appeal.”

The lawyers that represented the parents during adjudication hearings, Marshall Moore and David James, were present at Thursday’s hearing.

Moore argued that he and James should have no involvement in the case based on previous on-the-record statements from the parents asking for their removals.

Hudson asked Moore and James to advise the parents before the hearing and they did.

Both parents agreed to contact Tom Friess of First Amendment Radiothe, poster of the first video on the Internet, and ask for their copy back. The mother said she wasn’t aware Friess was going to upload the video.

“Weren’t you in fact interviewed by Mr. Friess on public radio?” Hudson asked the mother.

She confirmed that she was and conceded she had at some point given her consent to have the video made available for global viewing.

The parents of two pairs of sisters will go Monday before Griffin to address a DHS motion concerning the videos placed Tuesday on the Internet.

Griffin will also begin final custody hearings for 23 other children that are in DHS custody Monday.

“I had no idea the value of that DVD,” the mother said before the hearing. “It speaks for itself.”

The girl’s mother sat on a wooden bench next to her husband before court as she spoke of her religion and of her daughter being “kidnapped by the FBI and DHS.” Allegations of neglect and abuse are motivated by those who fear Alamo’s message, the mother said.

“They’re just trying to get information against our pastor,” she said. “It’s constant court battles.”

When asked why she thought Alamo had so frequently been hailed into court, the mother explained that the evangelist’s teachings made him a target of the federal government.

“He preaches right out of the Bible. He preaches against abortions that the government says are OK. He preaches against homosexuality, lesbianism and corruption and they want to keep his mouth shut,” the mother said. “The Bible says the Vatican is the center of the abomination of everything on the face of the Earth. It’s in the Bible. You can see for yourself.”

When asked if Alamo has more than one wife, the mother declined to comment.

“Here you’ve had all of these questions asked of you. Aside from just the potential embarrassment of having very intimate details of your life up for public consumption, it can disrupt treatment,” Munsell said.

The possibility that classmates of the girls might view the videos and recognize a face or a voice is a real one, Munsell said.

The mother said little when asked if she has considered the effects it might have on her daughter if word of the video gets to the school she attends.

“It’s out of our hands now,” the father said.

Mary Coker, a member of People Against Cult Activity, who was authorized to speak on behalf of former followers, said many ex-members are concerned.

“They’re afraid it will keep others from talking,” Coker said. “It is appalling to see that these parents are more devoted to Tony Alamo than they are to their own children.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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