Image: Tony Alamo
Tanner Spendley  /  AP
Jurors heard from former followers who say evangelist Tony Alamo abused them as girls.
updated 7/22/2009 7:41:21 PM ET 2009-07-22T23:41:21

A prosecutor told federal jurors Wednesday that society must not tolerate sexual predators like evangelist Tony Alamo and urged them to convict him on charges that he took five young girls across state lines for sex.

At times while she spoke, Alamo fell asleep.

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

Alamo, 74, is facing a 10-count indictment. Defense lawyers argued the girls traveled the country for legitimate church business and said jurors could convict Alamo only if prosecutors proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lawyer Phillip Kuhn told jurors not to swayed by testimony unrelated to the indictment — that Alamo may have had multiple wives, or that he may have placed church assets in his followers' names to evade taxes. He said prosecutors deliberately strayed from the specific charges against Alamo.

"Was it to give Tony a fair trial or was it to turn the jury into a moral mob?" Kuhn asked.

Jurors were set to begin deliberating Thursday morning. Each of the 10 counts against Alamo is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Blindly loyal followers?
Jennet said the girls Alamo is accused of abusing were too young to be of much use to his 100- to 200-member church, which espouses an apocalyptic form of Christianity. They had no clerical experience, she said, adding that the few church members who testified on the preacher's behalf were following "blindly and loyally."

"What church business does a child conduct?" Jennet asked.

As she spoke about each of the indictment's counts, she recalled the testimony of a young follower who said she was ordered to the back of Alamo's tour bus to be abused: "The only thing he used me for was sex."

"Society will not and cannot tolerate a sexual predator of this magnitude," Jennet said.

Asleep for part of Jennet's closings, Alamo at one point had his mouth wide open as his head rolled back in his chair. A member of his legal team woke him by throwing a pen onto the defense table.

When he was awake, Alamo muttered "bull----" at times during Jennet's remarks.

Why the delay in a raid?
Kuhn said the government "persecuted" Alamo for his religious beliefs and questioned why the FBI took several years before raiding the evangelist's home if there were still victims there.

The lawyer repeatedly asked jurors — some of whom had wiped away tears and shook their heads during the victims' explicit testimony — to set aside their anger and disgust about Alamo's alleged sexual encounters.

"The only way the government can win this case is if you're mad," Kuhn said.

Alamo's legal team had 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, Alamo later said he chose not to testify in an "unjust court."

"It wouldn't have done any good, I'm not allowed to use the Bible," he said Wednesday as federal marshals escorted him to waiting car.

When asked if compared himself to Jesus Christ, Alamo responded: "I'm a part of his body, yes."

Women allege sex acts
At times since the raid, Alamo has ranted against government agents, calling them anti-Christian. He began the ministry in the 1960s with his wife, Susan. After her 1982 death, Alamo's tracts began to blame the Vatican for his and the world's problems. Prosecutors say that by the 1990s, he had begun a path that would lead him to prey on younger and younger girls in the ministry who knew him as "Papa Tony."

Women ranging from age 17 to 33 told jurors that Alamo "married" them in private ceremonies while they were minors, sometimes giving them wedding rings. Each detailed trips beyond Arkansas' borders during which Alamo had sex with them.

With little physical evidence, prosecutors relied on the women's stories to paint an emotional portrait of a charismatic religious leader who was in charge of every aspect of his subjects' lives. No one obtained food, clothing or transportation without his consent. Minor offenses from either gender drew beatings or starvation fasts.

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

Jennet praised the "courage" of the witnesses, some of whom escaped from the compound with only the clothes they were wearing after escaping the grated windows and security cameras of Alamo's home.

"What did Tony Alamo need to keep so secret?" the prosecutor said. "The evidence in this case makes the answer of that perfectly clear: Tony Alamo wanted to keep his criminal sexual activities with minors a secret from the outside world."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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