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Witness says evangelist joked about underage bride

July 16th, 2009 12:00 am by Associated Press

Child bride set to testify about how evangelist took underage girls across state line for sex


 TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) -- A former follower of evangelist Tony Alamo told a federal jury Thursday that the minister often joked about taking an underage girl with him on the road as a wife and sex partner.


Prosecutors called the 33-year-old Texas woman to the stand to corroborate testimony from a Florida woman who said she "married" Alamo at age 15. The Texas woman is not among those identified as victims in a 10-count federal indictment against Alamo.


The government accuses Alamo, 74, of taking young girls across state lines for sex. Defense lawyers say the government has targeted the ministry, and Alamo says the trial is part of a Vatican-led conspiracy against him. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.


The Florida woman testified Wednesday that she was transported to Tennessee and West Virginia to have sex with Alamo as he awaited a 1994 tax evasion trial. The Texas woman, who had "married" Alamo a year earlier at age 17, said the younger girl's age was common knowledge.


"It was a joke in the house that she was underage," she said. "It was a flaunting that he could get away with this."


The 15-year-old bride was on Alamo's "schedule" of whom he would have sex with, the Texas woman said. The Florida woman had said Wednesday that Alamo had so many partners that he had to schedule whom he would have sexual relations with.


Thursday's first witness said Alamo canceled biology classes for children inside the compound after discovering that topics would include sexual reproduction. The Florida woman had said that children at the compound were separated by gender by the time she reached the fifth grade because Alamo didn't want "any hanky-panky between boys and girls."


The Texas woman said that Alamo ran her husband out of the church and took her as another of his brides. She told jurors that, while sexually assaulting her the night of their marriage, Alamo screamed out: "The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is against you, Satan." She was 17 then, Alamo was age 59.


She left the ministry in 1996 when she was living in Colorado, near where Alamo was being held in federal prison on his tax conviction.


Under questioning by prosecutors, the Texas woman said she didn't contact authorities for years because Alamo had taught his followers that the government justice system was evil.


"This was the courtroom of Satan and we were in the courtroom of God" with Alamo, she told jurors.


Under cross-examination, the Texas woman acknowledged returning to Alamo's compound after he evicted her husband but said she did so because she was afraid God would punish her if she didn't do as Alamo said.


"I lived in fear of hellfire and I believed that God could strike me dead," said the woman, who was born into the church her parents joined as teenage runaways. She said she was not taken across state lines for sex until after reaching age 18.


The Associated Press is not using the women's names because it generally does not identify those who say they were victims of sex crimes.


The witness Wednesday said she was a third-generation Alamo follower into adulthood - until the Arkansas-based pastor took an 8-year-old as his latest bride. At one point, the woman said, she objected when Alamo graphically described how he fondled the girl as she held a stuffed animal.


"He told me to shut up and that I shouldn't question what `the Lord told me to do,'" the woman said.


If convicted, Alamo faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. He is being held without bond.

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