1/14/09 – Don Thorne defies judge and is held in contempt of court

January 14, 2009

Dad’s silence in Alamo case earns him jail

TEXARKANA – The father of a boy who was removed from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries was held in contempt of court and jailed Tuesday evening after he refused to say where his two other children are.

Meanwhile, an Internet radio station talk-show host joined ministry members protesting outside the Juvenile Court Center in Texarkana on Tuesday and said he has no plans to take a recording of an investigator’s interview with a 16-year-old ministry member off his Web site.

Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin didn’t name the father who was held in contempt of court, but church member Don Thorne was escorted from the Juvenile Court Center in handcuffs about 6:20 p.m. and placed in a patrol car.

Speaking to reporters a few minutes later, Griffin confirmed that the man who was removed had been held in contempt of court for “hiding the kids.”

He said that violated a Nov. 17 court order authorizing Arkansas Department of Human Services to take the father’s children into custody.

“What he basically did is, he hid the kids out, knowing that there was a court order,” Griffin said.

The contempt finding was issued on the second day of a hearing to determine the custo- dy status of 23 children removed from the ministry in November and December. The Arkansas Department of Human Services says the children are endangered by church practices that include beatings for violation of church rules. Authorities say some of the children may have been sexually abused. Church members deny the claims.

The hearing is closed to reporters, and Griffin has issued a gag order barring participants from talking about the proceedings.

Since a Sept. 20 raid on the church’s compound in Fouke, 36 children have been taken into custody. At least 92 others named in court orders issued by Griffin and Sebastian County Circuit Judge Mark Hewett haven’t been found.

In November, Thorne’s wife, Lisa, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the couple’s son was taken into custody along with 16 other children after a traffic stop on Arkansas 245. She said her other two children were somewhere else.

“I can’t give any information about them because I don’t want them to get taken away,” she said.

Lisa Thorne has not been at any of the hearings on her son.

Griffin said he gave the father a “means by which he could purge his contempt,” but the father opted not to take it.

“He violated the original court order; that’s what I addressed,” Griffin said.

Earlier Tuesday, Tom Friess, the host of a talk show on the Internet radio station , joined about a half-dozen ministry members who held signs outside the court building for a second day to protest what they describe as an attack on their church by a Vatican-controlled conspiracy.

Friess said he is not a member of the church but supports its cause.

“If you’re not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, or you’re not a member of an ecumenical Protestant church, the Vatican uses the secular power of government to conduct inquisitions against you,” said Friess, 52, of Perry, Iowa, wearing a Tony Alamo Christian Ministries T-shirt and holding a sign that said “Stop the inquisition.”

A few minutes later, he used his cell phone to give a live broadcast from outside the building.

The video recording on Friess’ Web site shows an interview with the girl at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Texarkana, Texas, on Sept. 21, a day after she was removed from the ministry’s compound in Fouke along with five other girls. In the interview, the girl denies she was abused, although Miller County Circuit Judge Jim Hudson found after a hearing in November that she had been beaten by a church member at the direction of her mother.

Debra Ondrisek, who says the punishment was only a “spanking,” sent the video to Friess, an act that the Human Services Department says violates a law requiring material compiled in children’s advocacy centers for sexual-abuse investigations be kept confidential.

Under an agreement Hudson approved last month, Ondrisek said she would ask the radio station to take down the video.

Nicklas Arthur, who operates the radio station’s Web site, said in an e-mail that Ondrisek did ask the station to take down the video but added she had been “ordered to make the request.”

“When we asked if she really wanted us to take it down, she replied, No,” Arthur said in the email. Since then, the station has posted a link to video recordings of interviews of the other five girls removed from the ministry Sept. 20.

Arthur said the station has no plans to take down any of the videos unless it gets a sincere request from one of the children’s parents.

“If someone wants their case, and the case of their families, to go public, it should,” Arthur said. “We have that right as Americans.”

The agreement gives Ondrisek until the end of Thursday to give Hudson written proof of her efforts to have the video taken down and to retrieve a video she sent President Bush. If the Human Services Department isn’t satisfied with the efforts, it could ask her to be held in contempt of court, Department spokesman Julie Munsell said.

Munsell said the department is still investigating to find out who sent the other five videos to the radio station and to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which posted excerpts of the videos on its Web site, www., with the girls’ faces obscured. She said the department is considering filing a lawsuit seeking a judge’s order requiring the videos to be taken down.

“Obviously, we would rather these entities take it down [voluntarily], but I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future,” Munsell said.

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