20 Mar 2009

Teens given longer time to serve suit on Alamo cult "enforcer"

Arkansas Democrat Gazette - March 19, 2009

by Andy Davis

A judge's ruling Wednesday gives two teenagers an extra three months to find the man they say beat them while they were members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and serve him with a copy of their lawsuit.

But the teenagers' attorney, W. David Carter of Texarkana, Texas, said he doesn't expect to wait that long to move forward with the lawsuit, which seeks damages against the ministry's leader, Tony Alamo, and John Kolbeck, whom authorities have identified as Alamo's "enforcer."

If he can't find Kolbeck in the next month, Carter said, he'll ask U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes for permission to serve Kolbeck by publishing a notice of the lawsuit in newspapers in Texarkana and Fort Smith. Kolbeck would have 30 days after the notice is published to respond or risk having a judgment entered for the teenagers by default.

"Since he's on the run and not going to show himself, apparently, voluntarily, that's typically the best way to get reasonable notice to them that they've been sued," Carter said.

In the lawsuit, Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna, who were both 18 when the suit was filed in November, say Kolbeck, 49, beat them with a board, at the direction of Alamo, on multiple occasions while they were in the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in Fouke and Fort Smith. Both teenagers left the ministry last year.

Kolbeck is wanted on a second-degree battery charge in a beating that police say Calagna received at a ministry warehouse in Fort Smith last year and on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He is being sought by the FBI, Fort Smith police and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Under federal court rules, the teenagers had until March 25 to serve Kolbeck with the suit. In January, Carter asked the judge for the deadline to be extended by four months, saying the teenagers hoped Kolbeck "will be apprehended by law enforcement officials during that time and will be available for personal service of process."

In an order Wednesday, Barnes extended the deadline, but by a month less than Carter had requested.

Carter said he has been checking with authorities for any news on the search for Kolbeck, and he has been in talks with a producer for the Fox show America's Most Wanted, which plans to feature the case.

America's Most Wanted producer Diana Nolan said the show has been working on a feature about the case since November and tentatively plans to air it in May, when Alamo is set for trial on sex charges.

"Obviously, any violence against children strikes a chord with our show," said Nolan, noting that the show's host, John Walsh, became an advocate for crime victims after his son Adam was killed in 1981.

Sgt. Levi Risley, a spokesman for the Fort Smith Police Department, said authorities haven't received any recent leads on Kolbeck's whereabouts. He said anyone with information can call the Fort Smith Police Department at (479) 709-5000.

Alamo, 74, has denied ordering beatings. His trial, on charges that he transported five underage girls across state lines for sex over the past 15 years, is set for May 18.

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