4/18/09 – TG: Alamo lawyer pulls double duty

Texarkana Gazette
April 18, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo lawyer pulls double duty

The same lawyer who is suing the Arkansas Department of Human Services on behalf of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries will defend the controversial evangelist in a civil lawsuit filed last November by two former followers.

Phillip Kuhn of Florida will now act as Tony Alamo’s defense attorney in a civil lawsuit filed by Texarkana lawyer David Carter.

Kuhn could not be reached for comment Friday.

Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna claim they were beaten, starved and forced to work unpaid while living with their parents on church property.

That suit also names John Kolbek, a church member who allegedly carried out beatings with a wooden paddle handcrafted for the purpose, as a defendant.

Authorities said Kolbek is a wanted man. A warrant for his arrest was issued in October in Fort Smith, Ark., for the alleged beating of Calagna.

According to an offense report, Calagna told Fort Smith police Kolbek beat him until he bled as he lay on the cold cement floor of a warehouse with his pants and thermal underwear pulled down. Calagna also reported being beaten in the gym on church property in Fouke, Ark.

Ondrisek has testified in custody hearings for minor children taken from Alamo devotees and at a detention hearing for the 74-year-old church leader about beatings he allegedly suffered at the hands of Kolbek and Alamo in Fouke.

Like Calagna, Ondrisek claims he was left bruised and bloody after a paddling from Kolbek.

Carter was granted extra time to serve Kolbek with the civil suit by U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes of the Western District of Arkansas in light of his fugitive status.

Alamo is being held without bond by federal authorities in a jail cell in downtown Texarkana in connection with criminal charges pending against him. He is accused of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to bring young girls across state lines for sex.

On April 9, Kuhn filed a suit in Barnes’ court on behalf of the church and two Alamo-following fathers. The suit names DHS Director John Selig, Miller County DHS Administrator Steve Mason and Fort Smith DHS Administrator Gwen Lovelace as defendants.

In the suit, Kuhn accuses DHS of using allegations of child abuse to disband the church. Parents fearful of losing their kids are in hiding and are no longer taking care of church business, the suit alleges.

DHS has taken 36 children into custody under removal orders signed by circuit judges in Miller and Sebastian counties. The suit seeks an injunction from the court that would prevent DHS from taking more children.

Under the law, the DHS defendants have until Tuesday to respond to Kuhn’s motion for an injunction. Barnes granted a request Friday for an extension filed by lawyers representing the DHS administrators.

“Because plaintiffs do not seek a hearing on their request for a preliminary injunction for 45 to 60 days in order to conduct discovery, the defendants now seek to enlarge the time to respond to the motion for preliminary injunction to coincide with the time to respond to the complaint,” the motion said.

A response to the motion for an injunction and an answer to the complaint must now be filed by the DHS defendants by May 1.

James Brader and Carmen Mosley-Sims are representing Selig, Mason and Lovelace. Both are staff attorneys with the Arkansas DHS Office of Chief Counsel in Little Rock.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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