Woman 'married' to pastor at age 8 to retake stand

Associated Press/July 17, 2009

Texarkana, Arkansas - A 9-year-old girl was considered too young to answer the office phone at evangelist Tony Alamo's compound, but old enough for frequent sex with the ministry leader, she alleged at his federal trial on child-sex charges.

The woman, now 18, testified that she dodged security cameras and roving guards to escape the compound in 2006. Her testimony left jurors red-eyed and shaking their heads Thursday.

She is set to return to the witness stand Friday to be cross-examined by Alamo's defense team.

Alamo, 74, is named in a 10-count indictment alleging he took young girls across state lines for sex. His lawyers say the girls were moved so they could do legitimate ministry work, and claim the government has targeted him. He has pleaded not guilty.

Defense lawyers have largely left the sex and underage marriage claims unchallenged, though they have questioned witnesses' memories and whether they had been coached by authorities.

The teenage witness said Alamo "married" her when she was 8, and groped her after their wedding. She said he began having sex with her when she was a 9-year-old third-grader. He also took explicit photographs of her that year with an instant camera and, upon looking at them, called her a "whore." She said she didn't understand, but Alamo told her it was a good thing.

She said at one point she asked the minister why he had selected her.

"He said, `Because you were cute,'" she said on the witness stand. "It wasn't God's will that he married me. It's just because he thought I was cute."

The Associated Press isn't naming the woman because it generally does not identify those who say they were victims of sex crimes.

The woman described two trips to her parents' home in Oklahoma that ended when Alamo summoned her back to his Arkansas compound for sex. Those trips are mentioned in the indictment.

The woman told jurors she did some filing for the ministry early on, but that she wasn't allowed to answer the phone.

"I was too young," she said.

Her testimony came after another former underage bride said she "married" Alamo at age 14 through hurried whispers during visiting hours at a federal prison where he was serving time for tax evasion. Alamo's other wives served as lookouts.

"We would lean in really close to each other so the camera wouldn't see," she said, crying.

A Florida woman who testified against Alamo on Wednesday said she was "married" to him at age 15 and raised objections to Alamo taking an 8-year-old as a bride. A woman from Texas told jurors the minister made light of taking a young girl on the road as a wife and sex partner.

"It was flaunting that he could get away with this," she said.

If convicted, Alamo faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the 10 counts against him. He is being held without bond.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.