LITTLE ROCK — The judge who sentenced a member of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries to two years in prison for failing to register as a sex offender did not adequately explain why he barred the man from using a computer or possessing pornography, an appeals court panel decided Monday.
The opinion by a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis reversed restrictions that U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson placed on Jonathon Patrick Curry when sentencing him in August 2009.
An FBI agent said in an arrest affidavit that he encountered Curry, who is now 51, living at a ministry-owned warehouse in Fort Smith in November 2008. The agent said he later discovered that Curry had failed to register after serving nearly seven years in prison for attempted lewdness with a child under 14.
Curry’s arrest in January 2009 came less than four months after Tony Alamo, the church’s leader, was arrested on charges of taking underage girls across state lines for sex in violation of the federal Mann Act. Convicted of 10 counts of violating the Mann Act, Alamo was sentenced in November 2009 to 175 years in prison.
According to the federal Bureau of Prisons, Curry was released from prison in October after completing his sentence on the conviction for failing to register.
In the opinion issued Monday, Chief Judge William Riley of Omaha, Neb., and judges Steven Colloton of Des Moines, Iowa, and Duane Benton of Kansas City, Mo., upheld the two-year sentence but reversed restrictions barring Curry from using computers, accessing the Internet or possessing pornography. The panel said prosecutors did not present evidence that Curry had ever used a computer and that Dawson did not explain why he prohibited Curry from possessing pornography. The panel noted Curry was convicted of a “registration offense, not a child exploitation offense.”
The appeals court panel said Dawson should hold a new sentencing hearing and make “particularized findings about any special condition that is imposed” on Curry’s release. A date for the sentencing hearing had not been set Monday.