TEXARKANA, Ark. — The jury deliberating the fate of evangelist Tony Alamo made progress Thursday but needs more time to weigh the charges that he took young girls across state lines for sex, the judge in the case said.
Jurors discussed the case for 8 1/2 hours, pausing twice to pose questions to U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes. Each time they returned to deliberations, but ended the day without giving a decision on the 10-count indictment.
Alamo said outside court he didn't know what to make of the daylong discussions.
"Who knows? God has a hand in everything," he said as federal marshals escorted him to a waiting vehicle.
After the jurors asked their questions, prosecutors and defense lawyers met with Barnes as he prepared written answers. The court would not say what subjects were raised.
Jurors dismissed for day
At the end of the day, Barnes met briefly with the panel before dismissing the jurors for the day.
"I understand you are making progress and that probably you need a little bit more time," Barnes said. He directed them to return Friday morning.
Alamo, 74, could spend the rest of his life in jail if convicted on charges he took young girls across state lines for sex.
In closing arguments Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner described Alamo as a manipulator who dictated everything from what his followers believed to what they could eat. At one point, she turned to stare directly at him.
"Your crimes have been exposed in this courtroom," Jenner said. Alamo sneered and waved her away.
Fell asleep during trial
Alamo fell asleep several times during Jenner's closing argument. At one point, his mouth hung 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 Jenner's remarks.
Defense lawyer Phillip Kuhn told jurors not to be swayed by testimony unrelated to the indictment — that Alamo may have had multiple wives, or that he may have set up businesses 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.
Alamo is accused of taking five young girls across state lines for sex between 1994 and 1995 after "marrying" them. Defense lawyers say prosecutors targeted him because the government is anti-Christian. Alamo has also said the Vatican is behind his troubles.
Defense attorneys largely stayed away from challenging the accusers' testimony about sex with the evangelist. Alamo's lawyers rested their case Wednesday after persuading the flamboyant minister not to testify. Though he had told reporters he would take the stand, Alamo said Wednesday afternoon he chose not to testify in an "unjust court."
Alamo is charged with violating the Mann Act, a nearly century-old morality law. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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