Alamo: ‘I’m going to testify’ in sex crimes trial
TEXARKANA, Ark. — Evangelist Tony Alamo walked into court Tuesday and told reporters he planned to take the stand in his sex-crime trial, even though his lawyers have advised against it.
“I’m going to testify. I’ve already won. They’ve got nothing,” the 74-year-old Alamo said.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case Tuesday after playing recordings of phone conversations Alamo had from jail. In one, Alamo tells a girl she has to clean up a mess she made or leave his compound. In another, women and girls giggle as he discusses how the charges against him might differ had his alleged crimes occurred in Texas or Arkansas.
The defense team expects to call up to 10 witnesses, and their biggest liability might be their client.
In court Monday, the evangelist blurted out a reference to the raid on the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas. The outburst came as defense lawyers argued whether an FBI agent could say he worried about the safety of Alamo’s followers after a Sept. 20 raid on Alamo’s Arkansas compound.
“After Waco, they are looking for safety too, from the FBI,” Alamo interjected from the defense table, referencing the Branch Davidian religious compound in Texas that federal agents stormed in 1993. Leader David Koresh and dozens of followers died as the complex burned.
Kuhn said after the hearing that U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes heard the comment.
“The judge asked me to ask him to cool it,” Kuhn said.
“The FBI likes to burn Christians,” Alamo told reporters. “I should be putting them on trial, not them on me. They’re guilty.”
Prison Tapes Played At Tony Alamo Trial
Controversial evangelist Tony Alamo arrived in federal court in Texarkana at 6:45 a.m. and was asked why his lawyers did not want him to testify. Alamo said, “I’m going to testify, they’ve already lost the battle.”
When asked if he believed he was above the trial Alamo replied, “I’ve already won.”
The government rested at about 8:40 a.m. but not before playing prison tapes of Alamo talking to church members. One of the conversations was with a young child.
He said, “I’m getting sick of you kid, you have to do what you have to do or get out. Clean up your stinking mess … you’ll find out I’m still in charge.”
In a separate conversation Alamo said, “Why would I take them across state lines to have sex with them, I can do that in Arkansas and if I did it, would that be bad?”
FBI agent testifies at trial for Alamo
TEXARKANA – A bottle of Viagra was found in the same bathroom closet where investigators found Polaroid cameras and film during the Sept. 20 raid on the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke, an FBI agent testified Monday.
[Special Agent Randall] Harris spoke during the sixth day of Alamo’s trial on charges that he took five underage girls across state lines for sex from March 1994 through October 2005. Alamo, the 74-year-old leader of a multistate ministry with headquarters in Fouke, claims the trips were for church business, not for sex.
Former ministry member Nicole Farr, 25, who lives in California, testified Monday that she contacted the Arkansas State Police in 2001 and described her experience in the ministry, which she had left at age 15. She testified that she lived in Alamo’s house and worked in the ministry office for more than two years. While Farr was in the ministry, she said one of her friends, who is named as a victim in the indictment, was taken by Alamo as a wife at age 14.
Another former member, who said she was married to Alamo in 1993 at age 17, testified last week that she spoke with the state police investigators at length in 2003.
Under questioning from one of Alamo’s attorneys, Phillip Kuhn of Lakeland, Fla., Harris said that when the FBI became involved in 2006, the state police case file included a report on the 2003 interview with the former wife, but “not many” other interviews had been conducted. Prosecutors have said the investigation began to gather steam after the victims in the indictment left the church in 2006 and 2007.
In a phone interview Monday, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said the state police investigation is ongoing.
When the FBI and state police raided the Fouke compound in September, six girls were removed from the property, and child welfare authorities have since taken 30 other children into protective custody, saying they were endangered by practices that include allowing underage marriages and punishing disobedience with beatings.
Two of the purported victims’ mothers testified earlier Monday, saying they sent their daughters to live with Alamo because they thought it was God’s will.
“I thought at that time that he was a very holy man, and that she was going to be safe,” said one mother, whose daughter has said she married Alamo at age 11. The mother, who now lives in Colorado Springs, said she finally left the church last year, after she said “a number of things just kept adding up, and I saw that things were unscriptural.”
Another mother said she was disturbed when she visited Alamo’s house in the fall of 2000 and saw one of the purported victims, then 9 or 10, rubbing Alamo’s upper thighs.
When Alamo noticed her staring, she said he asked her, “Do you think I’m not of the Lord? Do you think I’m doing something dirty? Do you think I’m a dirty old man?”
Her response: “No, sir.”
At compound, Alamo controlled all aspects of life
TEXARKANA, Ark. — In the years after evangelist Tony Alamo took the 14-year-old girl as a bride, she said, she caught glimpses of her father on the surveillance cameras that fed into the minister’s office.
As her father walked by outside, monitors provided views from every angle. But even though only a few walls and doors separated them, leaving Alamo’s home without permission was unthinkable.
Alamo was a prophet, she’d been taught. He was “God’s chosen one.” And she was scared.
“I felt uncomfortable asking Tony to see my dad,” the woman, now 20, testified at his federal trial on charges that he took underage girls across state lines for sex.
“So you had to ask Tony’s permission before you could go outside and see your father?” a prosecutor asked.
The woman, who left Alamo’s compound in Arkansas three years ago, was one of many witnesses whose testimony offered a rare glimpse inside the evangelist’s secretive ministry. They said Alamo made the decisions: who got married, what children were taught in school, who got clothes, who was allowed to eat. He also chose which of his followers to “marry,” witnesses said – including one girl who was 8 years old.
“He had control over everything,” testified a 30-year-old woman who said she was another child bride.
Families moved state to state at Alamo’s command, living in apartments, trailers or houses owned by the ministry. The church had a language of its own: Alamo as “Papa Tony,” new members as “baby Christians” and those suspect few living outside as “visiting Christians.”
At his compounds in Arkansas, students learned Alamo-approved curriculums, with ninth-grade biology tossed aside because the course material discussed sex, one witness said. Alamo began separating the sexes in the 1990s, and by the time he was released from prison following his 1994 tax evasion conviction, brothers and sisters often lived separate lives, another woman said.