Identities of children seized from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and details of closed-door custody hearings will be sealed from public view in a federal lawsuit brought by the jailed evangelist’s church, a judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes issued an order protecting children’s identities, details of state custody hearings and any federally protected health information about church followers. However, Barnes denied a request by the state to also seal any filings involving the children.
Alamo’s ministry sued the state in April, alleging state child-welfare officials were persecuting the evangelist’s followers. The suit asks Barnes to issue a restraining order blocking the state from seizing children solely because their parents belong to the church. It also asks that Barnes stop the state from forcing parents to leave the church in order to regain custody of their children.
Lawyer Phillip E. Kuhn of Lakeland, Fla., who is representing Alamo’s church, opposed sealing records in the case. In a twist, Kuhn argued that reporters — the same people Alamo often claims are in league with the Antichrist — should have access to filings and hearings to ensure a fair trial.
Since a Sept. 20 raid on Alamo’s compound in Fouke, state child-welfare officials have seized 36 children associated with the ministry. The state continues to seek nearly 100 more children over allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Alamo’s churches. State officials acknowledge Alamo followers likely are hiding the children to avoid a court order allowing them to be taken.
Alamo, 74, faces a 10-count federal indictment accusing him of taking young girls across state lines for sex. His trial is scheduled to begin May 18, with Barnes presiding over it.
Federal prosecutors intend to use evidence gathered during the investigation of other crimes allegedly committed by jailed evangelist Tony Alamo at his upcoming trial.
The filing in U.S. District Court at Texarkana shows prosecutors plan to offer evidence that Alamo “engaged in a sexual relationship with not only the charged victims … but also other women and underage girls.”
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Lawyers for jailed evangelist Tony Alamo want another four months to prepare for his federal trial on sex charges, saying they’ve received only some of the evidence against their client.
In a 28-page filing Tuesday, Alamo defense lawyer Danny Davis accused federal prosecutors of “piling on” charges and witnesses against the 74-year-old preacher. Davis also claimed Alamo’s former defense lawyer, John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock, failed to conduct any investigation into the allegations.
Without the extra time, Davis wrote that holding the trial as planned on May 18 would make Alamo an “unarmed prisoner sacrificed to armed gladiators.”
Hall, who serves as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, denied Davis’ claims.
Alamo, who faces charges of taking young girls across state lines for sex, allegedly had encounters with the girls on buses and in showers, Davis has said. Alamo’s ministry, which has churches in Arkansas, California and New York. uses a fleet of passenger vans to ferry members between locations.
Davis also acknowledged his own investigations into the allegations remains stymied by followers in hiding, fearful their children will be seized by child-welfare officials.