TEXARKANA — Members of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries have asked a federal judge to reconsider his order that several church properties be sold to satisfy multi-million dollar judgments against the evangelist, now serving a 175-year prison sentence.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant previously ruled that six properties in Fort Smith could be sold to help satisfy a $30 million civil judgment that Alamo was ordered to pay to two men who were raised in the controversial group. A jury found that those two men were beaten, starved and denied education and found Alamo liable for conspiracy, outrage and battery.
About 100 ministry members attended a bench trial Wednesday on the issue, the Texarkana Gazette reported. The ministry members argue that the properties are owned collectively by church members and not Alamo.
Earlier this year, Bryant ruled that the properties were bought and controlled by Alamo, even though they were placed in the names of ministry members. The judge said he'll rule soon on the request to reconsider the order.
Several members testified Wednesday that they raised money for down payments and signed bank notes for the Fort Smith properties.
But attorneys for Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek, who won the $30 million judgment against Alamo, argue that Alamo is still controlling his ministry from behind bars.
"Tony Alamo is the true owner of the properties at interest," attorney Neil Smith wrote in a court filing. "While Tony Alamo Christian Ministries may use the properties, it is important to remember that Tony Alamo Christian Ministries is not a separate legal entity from Tony Alamo himself ... Rather, Tony Alamo is Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. It is Tony Alamo who decides who possesses the properties. It is Tony Alamo who controls all decisions regarding the properties."
In 2009, Alamo was convicted in federal court of sexually abusing five underage girls and was sentenced to 175 years in prison. Alamo was also ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution to each accuser.