15 Nov 2010

Judge awards $500,000 each to 5 women sexually abused as minors by jailed evangelist Tony Alamo

Fox News - Associated Press January 13, 2010

Judge Orders $500G for Each of Tony Alamo's Victims

TEXARKANA, Ark. -- Five young women who testified last year that evangelist Tony Alamo took them as "wives" and sexually assaulted them when they were minors are entitled to $500,000 each from his multi-million-dollar ministry, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes ordered restitution after a government witness said the women suffered physical and mental pain at Alamo's hands. Prosecutors said they were confident Alamo could afford the $2.5 million judgment even though most of his assets are held in his followers' names.

"The challenge is going to be uncovering them and finding what names they're placed under," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner said.

Alamo lawyer Don Ervin said he was disappointed after arguing the five were not entitled to any restitution. He said claims of longterm pain and suffering were speculative and based on medical or health issues that had not yet emerged.

Ervin also argued each woman should have been evaluated separately and received compensation based on their own history.

The government had sought $2.7 million per woman, or a total of $13.5 million.

Alamo, 75, was sentenced last year to 175 years for taking underage girls across state lines for sex. He will not have to pay the restitution until his appeals are exhausted.

Dr. Sharon Cooper, a developmental and forensic pediatrician, told Barnes the women continue to suffer chronic back pain because they were forced to give Alamo massages every night while they were kept at his compound near Fouke in southwest Arkansas. Each woman, now aged 17-33, also suffers persistent and painful menstrual cramps associated with sexual abuse, Cooper said.

Alamo, shackled at the ankles as he sat at the defense table, scowled and sighed during Cooper's testimony.

At last year's trial, the women testified that Alamo kept firm control over everything at his complex. Cooper said his five victims were undereducated -- none had a high school diploma -- and all lacked insurance.

"Without treatment, they will struggle mightily," Cooper said.

The 75-year-old pastor presides over a church that claims 100-200 members. Trucking companies, residential property and a number of other ventures fund the ministry's work, including a printing operation that prints church paraphernalia that blames the government or the Vatican -- or both -- for his and the world's problems.

Alamo once owned a Nashville, Tenn., clothing store that catered to celebrities desiring his elaborately decorated jean jackets. His home at Dyer included a heart-shaped swimming pool, but followers who lived on the grounds kept sleeping bags in meeting rooms.

At a bond hearing in 2008, an FBI agent said businesses produce a "substantial amount" of income controlled by Alamo but that none of the property shows up in the minister's name -- though he couldn't provide an estimate of Alamo's worth.

In the 1990s, Alamo spent four years in prison for tax evasion and the IRS laid claim to millions of dollars in back taxes. Among items sold at auction were the plans for the studded jacket Michael Jackson wore on his "Bad" album.

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