10 Nov 2010

Cult evangelist, Tony Alamo, sentenced to 175 years for sexually abusing children he took as 'wives'

Google News - Associated Press November 13, 2009

Evangelist sentenced to 175 years for sex crimes


TEXARKANA, Ark. — Evangelist Tony Alamo was sentenced Friday to 175 years in prison for taking underage girls across state lines for sex, effectively punishing him for the rest of his life for molesting children he took as "brides" in his ministry.

During Friday's hearing, some of Alamo's victims testified about how their families were destroyed while the evangelist took over their lives.

Alamo, 75, had been convicted in July on a 10-count federal indictment. U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes said Alamo used his status as father figure and pastor and threatened and threatened the girls with "the loss of their salvation."

"Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a higher a greater judge than me, may he have mercy on your soul," Barnes said.

Just before Barnes sentenced Alamo, the evangelist offered a brief statement to the court praising God then later adding:

"I'm glad I'm me and not the deceived people in the world."

Alamo's lawyers said they planned to appeal Barnes' ruling. His defense offered a doctor who said he suffered from hardening arteries, diabetes, glaucoma and other health problems. However on cross-examination the doctor acknowledged he saw Alamo only once in 2004 and that the purpose of Alamo's visit was to get an eye lift to make him appear younger.

The evangelist will stay in Texarkana pending a Jan. 13 hearing in which Barnes will decide whether Alamo's victims will get restitution from him. After that hearing, Barnes said Alamo would go to a federal prison that has hospital facilities.

A woman Alamo took as a child "bride" at age 8 challenged the evangelist from the witness stand Friday to submit himself to God's judgment. Reading from lined notebook paper, she said Alamo tore her family apart by taking her as a child bride and described how she shook uncontrollably when he first molested her.

"You preyed on innocent children," she said staring down Alamo, who wore yellow prison scrubs and a windbreaker for the hearing.

"You have the audacity to ask for mercy. What mercy did you show us?" she said.

A moment later she asked, "What kind of man of God does what you have done?"

The woman told Barnes that she planned to become an FBI agent in order to help other child sex abuse victims.

Two other child brides testified. One, who said she is now employed full-time and has a life of her own outside of the ministry, said she hoped Alamo would spend the rest of his life in jail.

"Maybe the real God, not the God you made up, will have mercy on your soul," the woman said.

Barnes said there was ample evidence that Alamo engaged in a pattern of molesting younger and younger girls in his ministry.

Alamo accused his victims of lying, as he has done throughout his prosecution.

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Google News - Associated Press November 13, 2009

Victims set to testify at evangelist's sentencing


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Several of the child "wives" who helped convict evangelist Tony Alamo of federal sex charges were expected to return to the witness stand on Friday during his sentencing hearing.

The 75-year-old leader of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries were scheduled to appear in court in Texarkana. A jury convicted him in July on a 10-count indictment accusing him of taking young girls across state lines for sex. Alamo faces up to 175 years in prison

After the jury's decision, the apocalyptic preacher told reporters: "I'm just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel."

How long he stays behind bars will be up to U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes, who will rule after Alamo's lawyers plead for leniency. However, prosecutors believe Barnes will side with victims and apply a sentencing ensuring that Alamo never gets released.

"We believe he will face the rest of his natural life in prison," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner said in July.

Each count also carries possible fines of $250,000.

In court filings, federal prosecutors said three of the women Alamo "married" at ages as young as 8 will offer victim-impact testimony. Prosecutors said the three also offered written statements for Alamo's sentencing report.

In their efforts to sway Barnes, defense lawyers offered letters from followers and a report from one of Alamo's doctors. The doctor expressed alarm that the evangelist has lost around 70 pounds since his arrest in September 2008 and noted that Alamo suffered a fainting spell and has had hallucinations.

That weight loss, and his previous poor health, leaves Alamo dangerously exposed to heart problems, Dr. Samuel Berkman wrote.

"I would call him a walking time bomb," Berkman wrote.

During the trial, Alamo's child "brides" described how he "married" them in private ceremonies while they were minors, sometimes giving them wedding rings. Each detailed trips beyond Arkansas' borders during which Alamo had sex with them.

With little physical evidence, prosecutors relied on the women's stories to paint an emotional portrait of a charismatic religious leader who was in charge of every aspect of his subjects' lives.

With defense witnesses, Alamo's lawyers offered questions trying to show that the his trips out of state came from business, ministerial or personal reasons. Defense lawyers largely left the issue of Alamo having sex with the girls alone.

FBI agents and Arkansas State Police troopers had raided Alamo's Fouke compound on Sept. 20, 2008, searching for evidence of the photos the evangelist took of the underage girls he abused. He was arrested five days later in Arizona.

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