16 Dec 2010

Cult leader Tony Alamo wants new trial, claims sex with child 'brides' was not main reason for trip across state lines

Texarkana Gazette - July 21, 2010

Lawyer says Alamo should get new trial

Defense says sex with minors was ‘incidental’

By Lynn LaRowe

Tony Alamo should get a new trial because sex with minors was “incidental” to his purpose for traveling across state lines, his lawyer argues in Alamo’s most recent appellate brief.

Alamo was convicted in July 2009 of 10 counts in a federal indictment accusing him of bringing five young girls he wed as children across state lines for sex in violation of the Mann Act.

Little Rock defense attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. argues the government got it wrong when the jury was told it had to find that a dominant purpose of travel for the victims was to provide Alamo access to them for sex. Hall argues Alamo’s reason to travel should have been at issue.

“In every instance, the Jane Doe’s presence on the trips was merely incidental to the interstate travel …” the brief said.

Hall points out that in two counts a Jane Doe traveled to Oklahoma without Alamo but was convicted of violating the Mann Act anyway.

At trial, the Jane Doe testified Alamo arranged for her to go to and from her mother’s home in Oklahoma after her father, who was no longer a member of Alamo Ministries, threatened to contact authorities because he feared she was living in Alamo’s house. The girl testified she was instructed to call her father and quell his fears from a phone number distanced from Alamo’s house in Fouke, Ark.

The girl testified Alamo would not have sex with her and consummate their “spiritual marriage” until she had done this because he feared a physical examination of the girl might cause him trouble.

“It shows how strained the government’s reading of the jury instruction and the Mann Act really is as it seeks to hammer the square peg of the proof into the round hole of the jury instruction and case law,” Hall wrote.

Hall argues if the justices of the 8th Circuit, which considers cases on appeal from federal courts including the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas, agree that Alamo shouldn’t have been found guilty in some of the counts, they should grant him a new trial on all of them because it demonstrates the jury was prejudiced against him.

Hall’s brief also argues Alamo deserves to be resentenced by a different judge because of statements U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes made after imposing a 175-year term.

The brief accuses Barnes of imposing his “own sense of religiosity” when he “referenced a higher judge, God.”

At sentencing Barnes told Alamo that, “One day you will face a higher and greater judge than me. May he have mercy on your soul.”

Hall argues the 175-year sentence, the maximum, wasn’t necessary to ensure that a 75-year-Alamo would spend the rest of his life in prison and was imposed as “religious penance.”

In an earlier brief, the government refuted Hall’s arguments, noting Barnes stated at sentencing he was following federally mandated guidelines to arrive at punishment.

The government has not yet responded to the brief Hall filed Monday.

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