TEXARKANA, Arkansas — Five young women who testified last year that evangelist Tony Alamo took them as "wives" and sexually assaulted them when they were minors are entitled to $500,000 each from his multi-million-dollar ministry, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes ordered restitution after a government witness said the women suffered physical and mental pain at the hands of Alamo, who is serving a 175-year prison sentence for taking the women when they were underage across state lines for sex.
In his ruling, Barnes noted that each of the victims were assaulted by someone they regarded as a pastor and prophet.
"The defendant has truly, truly damaged these five young girls and I don't think any amount of money this court can order can replace their loss," Barnes said.
Prosecutors said they were confident Alamo, 75, could afford the $2.5 million judgment even though most of his assets are held in his followers' names. He will not have to pay the restitution until his appeals are exhausted.
"The challenge is going to be uncovering them and finding what names they're placed under," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner said.
Alamo’s lawyer disappointed
Alamo's lawyer, Don Ervin, said he was disappointed after arguing the five were not entitled to any restitution. He said claims of longterm pain and suffering were speculative and based on medical or health issues that had not yet emerged.
Ervin also argued each woman should have been evaluated separately and received compensation based on their own history.
The government had sought $2.7 million per woman, or a total of $13.5 million.
Dr. Sharon Cooper, a retired Army colonel and developmental and forensic pediatrician, told Barnes the women continue to suffer chronic back pain because they were forced to give Alamo massages every night while they were kept at his compound near Fouke in southwest Arkansas. Each woman, now aged 18-33, also suffers persistent and painful menstrual cramps associated with sexual abuse, Cooper said.
All five suffered mental health problems, included post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. One suffered vision loss in one eye because she said she'd been repeatedly punched at Alamo's orders, Cooper testified.
Cooper testified that the victims had been sexually abused and exploited, falsely imprisoned by Alamo and suffered neglect.
"When you add all of this together, these would be considered over the top in terms of adverse childhood experience," said Cooper, who evaluated the women at her clinic in North Carolina last September.
Victims will ‘struggle mightily’
At last year's trial, the women testified that Alamo kept firm control over everything at his complex. Cooper said his five victims were undereducated — none had a high school diploma — and all lacked insurance.
Without treatment, Cooper said, the victims will "struggle mightily."
Alamo, who scowled and sighed during Cooper's testimony, presides over a church that claims 100-200 members. Trucking companies, residential property and a number of other ventures fund the ministry's work, including a printing operation that prints church paraphernalia that blames the government or the Vatican — or both — for his and the world's problems.
Alamo once owned a Nashville, Tennessee, clothing store that catered to celebrities desiring his elaborately decorated jean jackets. His home at Dyer included a heart-shaped swimming pool, but followers who lived on the grounds kept sleeping bags in meeting rooms.
At a bond hearing in 2008, an FBI agent said businesses produce a "substantial amount" of income controlled by Alamo but that none of the property shows up in the minister's name — though he couldn't provide an estimate of Alamo's worth.
In the 1990s, Alamo, who was shackled at the ankles as he sat at the defense table on Wednesday, spent four years in prison for tax evasion and the IRS laid claim to millions of dollars in back taxes. Among items sold at auction were the plans for the studded jacket Michael Jackson wore on his "Bad" album.
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