Jailed for refusing to reveal where there children are
LITTLE ROCK — Two members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries were released from jail Monday after spending more than seven months behind bars for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of their children.
Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin issued an order about 4 p.m. for the release of Bethany Myers and Don Thorne, who had each been jailed since January when they were found in contempt of court for refusing to provide information about their children’s whereabouts.
The order says only that their “punishment has been served,” but doesn’t give any further explanation for their release, said Cheryl Barnes, litigation specialist for a group known as CPS Watch Legal Team, which is assisting the parents in the child welfare cases.
“We’re very pleased that they were released from custody,” said Joe Quick, of Daytona Beach, Fla., who is representing the parents on behalf of CPS Watch Legal Team. “The parents will continue to cooperate 100 percent with the government to gain the return of their children, but that must be balanced with their religious beliefs.”
Myers’ three sons, then ages 5, 9, and 15, and one of Thorne’s sons, then age 13, were taken into protective custody, along with 13 other children, in a Nov. 18 traffic stop on Arkansas 245 in Texarkana. The Arkansas Department of Human Services is continuing to search for Myers’ three daughters, listed in a November order as ages 5, 9 and 15, and two of Thorne’s other children, a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.
There is no statutory limit on how long someone can be held for civil contempt, which is usedto coerce someone to comply with a judge’s order.
But Barnes, the CPS Watch Legal Team litigation specialist, said the parents likely do not know where their children are and so had no way to purge their contempt.
Tony Alamo, the ministry’s 74-year-old leader, was convicted last month of taking five underage girls across state lines for sex between March 1994 and October 2005.
Judges have ordered the parents of ministry children to move off church property and find jobs outside the ministry if they hope to regain custody of their children. Barnes said review hearings for some of the children’s cases will be held later this month.
Alamo defense wants new trial
Tony Alamo’s defense team asked for a new trial Friday, one week after the 74-year-old was convicted of bringing young girls across state lines for sex.
The motion asserts Alamo is entitled to another shot at justice because the jury heard evidence of a variety of alleged misdeeds unrelated to the charges for which he was tried, among other reasons.
Defense attorney Jeff Harrelson penned the motion that said Alamo didn’t get a fair trial because the jury heard “prejudicial” testimony.