3/20/09 – Judge gives Alamo deadline to find attorney in civil case

Texarkana Gazette
March 20, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Judge gives Alamo deadline to find attorney in civil case

Jailed evangelist Tony Alamo has 30 days to find a new lawyer to represent him in a civil suit filed by two former church members, U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes said this week.

The suit, filed by Texarkana lawyer David Carter on Nov. 25, 2008, on behalf of Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna, accuses Alamo and John Kolbek, a fugitive associate, of physically abusing them when they were minors living on church properties in Arkansas.

Last week Alamo replaced Little Rock attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. with Beverly Hills, Calif., lawyer Danny Davis as his defense counsel in the criminal case pending against him in federal court in the Western District of Arkansas. The church leader is facing a 10-count indictment accusing him of bringing young girls across state lines for sex.

But Davis isn’t representing Alamo in the civil suit.

Barnes granted Hall’s motions to withdraw in both the criminal and civil cases this week and gave Alamo 30 days to hire an attorney to handle his side of the civil suit.

“We’re helping him look for able counsel to represent him in the civil case,” Davis said. “Ideally it will be someone local.”

Davis previously said Alamo was concerned Hall wasn’t adequately preparing for his upcoming criminal trial. But Hall said he’s made multiple trips to Texarkana to visit Alamo in the downtown jail where he is being held, conducted interviews with church members and filed numerous motions in the civil case.

“We had been getting prepared,” Hall said. “Pastor Alamo apparently wanted a new direction.”

Davis is best known for his defense of Raymond Buckey in the McMartin preschool molestation trial. Buckey worked at the school and was falsely accused, along with the owner and other staff, of sexually abusing hundreds of children.

Davis said he and Texarkana attorney Jeff Harrelson, who is assisting in Alamo’s defense of the criminal charges, have asked the government for the names of the alleged victims described anonymously in the
federal indictment.

“We have started an active investigation on people, places and physicalities,” Davis said. “We just don’t have confirmation of the complaining witness names. We’re also waiting for prior counsel to deliver the file. That’s kind of stalled things a bit.”

But Davis said he doesn’t think he’ll need to ask Barnes to delay the trial past the scheduled May18 date.

“I don’t intend to,” Davis said of a continuance request. “Only if there’s a substantial showing that we need to do more work.”

Davis first became acquainted with Alamo in 1991. Alamo hired Davis to defend him against felony child abuse charges concerning the alleged 1988 beating of 12-year-old Justin Miller in California.

“My recollection is that we had a preliminary hearing with live witnesses,” Davis said. “As my memory serves me it went away of its own failed merit.”

Prosecutors dismissed the charges against Alamo but claimed they did so because the controversial church leader was heading to federal prison for tax evasion at the time.

Justin and his family were awarded more than $1 million by a federal judge in Arkansas. The allegations in the Justin Miller case were similar to those in Ondrisek’s and Calagna’s.

Justin was allegedly held down by three church members while a fourth beat him with a wooden paddle. Alamo allegedly directed the public beating via speakerphone from a nearby location.

In the suit filed by Ondrisek and Calagna, Kolbek is accused of using his fists and a long wooden paddle to beat them at Alamo’s urging.

Barnes made a ruling concerning Kolbek this week as well.

Kolbek has managed to elude state and federal authorities for months. In Sebastian County, Ark., a warrant for second-degree battery remains active in connection with an alleged beating of Calagna. Federal officials issued a warrant for unlawful flight for prosecution.

Carter hasn’t had any luck finding Kolbek either.

Barnes granted Carter a 90-day extension of time to serve Kolbek with notice of the civil suit.

“Federal Court rules require us to serve a copy of the complaint on each defendant within 120 days,” Carter said. “If we don’t find him soon, we will likely ask the Court for permission to serve notice of the suit on Kolbek by publishing it in a newspaper.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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