Evangelist Tony Alamo was sentenced to 175 years for forcing underage girls into sham marriages with him and telling his followers they would face eternal suffering if they didn’t give into his demands. Read more on Tony Alamo’s crime and sentencing below.
The judge that sentenced evangelist Tony Alamo on Friday to 175 years for child sex abuse warned the 75 year-old Alamo he’d be facing another type of justice.
“Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a higher and a greater judge than me,” U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes told the preacher. “May he have mercy on your soul.”
Barnes gave the maximum sentence to Tony Alamo, 75, who preyed on his followers’ young daughters and took child “brides” as young as age 8. Alamo was convicted in July on a 10-count indictment accusing him of taking the girls across state lines for sex.
Alamo made millions through his ministry and must pay $250,000 in fines. Tony will have to return to court for a hearing Jan. 13 to determine if the five women who testified about their sexual abuse will be paid restitution. Federal prosecutors say an expert believes each one should get $2.7 million for the physical and mental abuse they endured.
Tony Alamo used his influence as both a father figure and a pastor to force himself upon young girls who feared “the loss of their salvation.”
“You are described by others who testified as a prophet of God, a person of trust, a person of supreme authority in the church,” Barnes said, staring the pale preacher. “It’s hard to imagine the scenario and the damage that occurred to these five young girls.”
Alamo, who had muttered and cursed during his two-week trial, stood silently while being sentenced, dressed in a yellow prison uniform and a blue windbreaker. Before Judge Barnes gave his ruling, Alamo told the judge: “I lean on the lord Jesus Christ.”
“I’m glad I’m me and not the deceived people in the world,” the evangelist said.
FBI agents and Arkansas State Police troopers raided Tony Alamo’s compound in September 2008. The FBI arrested Tony Alamo just five days later in Flagstaff, Ariz., charging him with violating the Mann Act, a century-old morality law originally aimed at stopping women from being sold into prostitution.
Five women, age 17 to 33, testified in July that Alamo “married” them while they were minors, sometimes giving them rings. Each detailed trips beyond Arkansas’ borders for Alamo’s sexual gratification.
The women said Alamo ordered beatings or punitive fasts for minor infractions or at the whim of his paranoia.
Three of the five victims spoke in court Friday about how Alamo stole their childhoods and tore apart their families to satisfy his sexual perversions. One woman Alamo took as a child “bride” at age 8 described how she shook uncontrollably when he first molested her.
“You have the audacity to ask for mercy,” the woman said, looking up from her handwritten notes to stare at Alamo. “What mercy did you show us?”
Alamo’s lawyers pleaded for a lower sentence because of his age and infirmities. They called as witnesses two followers and a doctor, who discussed how Alamo suffered from hypertension, diabetes, obesity and glaucoma. However, Dr. Samuel Berkman acknowledged under cross-examination that he examined Alamo only once in 2004, as the preacher sought an eye lift to look younger.
“There’s no question he’s done a lot of good,” said Don Ervin, a Houston lawyer who led Alamo’s defense, outlining the church’s efforts to reach the poor. “He’s an unusual man and an unusually great man.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner said after the hearing that prosecutors would work with the federal prison system to ensure Alamo can’t control his ministry and its many businesses from behind bars. At trial, one of the victims described how Alamo “married” and groped her during a prison visit.
How long Alamo remains an influence depends on whether police or former followers dismantle the ministry through lawsuits and criminal cases. The FBI declined to say Friday whether it had ongoing investigations involving the ministry.
As Alamo left the courthouse, he said he would leave to his church’s future in other hands.
“The Lord is in charge,” the preacher said.
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