- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — Evangelist Tony Alamo told a girl who questioned one of his orders that he was “still in charge” of his Arkansas religious compound even from a Texas jail cell, according to recorded calls played Tuesday in his sex-crimes trial.

Prosecutors allege that a domineering Mr. Alamo took five underage girls across state lines for sex between 1994 and 2005. Defense lawyers say the government targeted Mr. Alamo for prosecution because it is anti-Christian. Mr. Alamo, who has pleaded not guilty, also has said the Vatican is behind his troubles.

Mr. Alamo told the girl, who is not among those he is accused of abusing, to “shut up” when she began to question him, according to the recordings made in Texarkana, Texas, after a raid on his southern Arkansas headquarters.

“Just because I’m in jail, you’ll find out that I’m still in charge. OK, kid? You understand?” Mr. Alamo said in the recording.

Earlier in the tape, he threatened to kick the girl out of the community if she didn’t obey.

“You either have to do what you’re supposed to do or get out,” Mr. Alamo said. When she began to protest, he interrupted her by saying: “Shut up. Shut your face. Clean up your stinking mess.”

Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday after four days of graphic testimony in which five women said they were “married” to Mr. Alamo as teens or preteens and were assaulted sexually by him. They said they traveled to other states for sex with him or responded to his call and returned to Arkansas and had sex with him.

As the defense began presenting its case, Mr. Alamo’s legal wife, Sharon Alamo, said his trips with the girls were for legitimate church purposes. Under cross-examination, she said she couldn’t explain a handful of wedding rings found in Mr. Alamo’s bedroom.

“Didn’t you notice the girls moving into the defendant’s residence … were getting younger and younger?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes asked.

“No, I didn’t,” Mrs. Alamo replied.

Later, she said her romantic relationship with Mr. Alamo was “over” but wouldn’t elaborate.

“My relationship with him is between myself and God and Tony,” she said. “I know you want me to label it, but I just can’t do that.”

Mr. Alamo has said the girls, part of his estimated 100 to 200 followers, were traveling to help spread the ministry’s teachings. His apocalyptic tracts outline his hatred of the Vatican and his feared “one-world government” as well as his belief in flying saucers.

In other tapes played for jurors, Mr. Alamo asked a female follower if she was aware of what he did behind closed doors. On another, he makes light of the charges against him.

“Why the hell would I take her across Texas state lines? If I did it in Arkansas, would that be bad?” he asks as women and girls on the other end of the line giggle.

Mr. Alamo told reporters on the way to court Tuesday that he planned to take the stand, despite his lawyers’ advice against it.

“I’m going to testify. I’ve already won. They’ve got nothing,” Mr. Alamo said.

His legal team said it could call as many as 10 witnesses.

Each of the 10 counts against Mr. Alamo is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In court Monday, the evangelist blurted out a reference to the 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian religious compound in Waco, Texas. Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and dozens of followers died as the complex burned.

The outburst came as defense lawyers argued about whether an FBI agent could say he worried about the safety of Mr. Alamo’s followers after the raid there.

“After Waco, they are looking for safety too, from the FBI,” Mr. Alamo interjected from the defense table.

Defense lawyer Phillip Kuhn said after the hearing that U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes heard the comment and asked that Mr. Alamo “cool it.”

But as Mr. Alamo left the courthouse Monday, he remained visibly upset.

“The FBI likes to burn Christians,” he told reporters. “I should be putting them on trial, not them on me. They’re guilty.”

Mr. Alamo’s followers set up a Twitter account in his name over the weekend and referenced a statement on his Web site deriding the FBI as “demonic.”

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