- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

TEXARKANA, Ark. — A prosecutor told federal jurors Wednesday that society cannot tolerate sexual predators such as evangelist Tony Alamo and that they must convict him on charges that he took five young girls across state lines for sex.

At times while she spoke, Mr. Alamo fell asleep.

“Your crimes have been exposed in this courtroom,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner told Mr. Alamo after turning away from jurors and toward the defense table. Awake at this point, Mr. Alamo sneered and waved her away.

Mr. Alamo, 74, is named in a 10-count indictment on suspected violations of the Mann Act, a century-old law that bans the transportation of underage girls for immoral purposes.

Defense lawyers argued the girls traveled the country for legitimate church business and said jurors could convict Mr. Alamo only if prosecutors proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mr. Alamo’s legal team largely shied away at trial from directly challenging victims over whether the sex occurred. The defense rested its case Wednesday after persuading the flamboyant minister not to testify. Though he had told reporters he would take the stand, Mr. Alamo later said he choose not to testify in an “unjust court.”

Women ranging from ages 17 to 33 told jurors that Mr. Alamo “married” them in private ceremonies while they were minors, sometimes giving them wedding rings. Each detailed trips beyond Arkansas’ borders for Mr. Alamo’s sexual gratification.

With no physical evidence, prosecutors relied on the women’s stories to paint an emotional portrait of a charismatic religious leader who controlled every aspect of his subjects’ lives. No one obtained food, clothing or transportation without his knowing about it.

“He had control over everything,” said a 30-year-old woman from Florida who left the compound after objecting to Mr. Alamo’s taking an 8-year-old “bride.”

At times, men were ordered away from the compound and their spouses kept as another Alamo wife. Minor offenses from either gender drew beatings or starvation fasts.

“I felt the strength of the board. I felt it on my leg. I didn’t like how it felt,” said an 18-year-old who testified that Mr. Alamo “married” her at age 8.

The woman considered to be Mr. Alamo’s common-law wife, Sharon Alamo, said she believed that wedding rings found in the compound were gifts to the ministry. She said the girls were moved about the country as they worked for Mr. Alamo, who has 100 to 200 followers.

Defense witnesses included two women whose currently underage children are being sought by Arkansas child-welfare officials. Neither testified about the children’s whereabouts, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Both were served state documents ordering them to surrender the children to the state, which already has removed 36 children from Mr. Alamo’s compound at Fouke.

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

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