Tony Alamo's phone privileges recently were suspended for more than 400 days as punishment for violating Federal Bureau of Prisons policy, a member of his legal team said Monday.
"He was trying to conduct business over the phone," said Florida attorney Phillip Kuhn, who was one of three who defended Alamo during his July 2009 sexual abuse trial in Texarkana, Ark.
Little Rock lawyer John Wesley Hall Jr. said Alamo is appealing the disciplinary action because he believes the Federal Bureau of Prisons should have made sure Alamo was aware of the rule prohibiting inmates from running business enterprises from within the confines of a federal prison before enforcing it.
"They don't give them to you where a blind man can read them," Hall said, when asked if officials had provided a copy of the phone usage policy to Alamo.
"Jails have to be ADA-compliant, too," he said, referring to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Witnesses at Alamo's trial testified he is legally blind, has glaucoma and must use a "seeing machine" that substantially magnifies text to read.
"I've asked them to let him have the seeing machine but they won't," Hall said.
The device is about the size of an overhead projector and built of glass and metal.
"The rules are different there than they were here," Hall said.
Alamo, 75, is being held at the U.S. Penitentiary in Tucson, Ariz.
Inmates can lose the freedom to dial out if they use a telephone to further criminal activity, according to the BOP Website. Circumventing telephone monitoring procedures, possessing or using another inmate's personal identification number, using a credit card number to pay for calls, conference calling or talking in code are other acts that can result in a disciplinary loss of telephone access, the BOP Website states.
Hall said Alamo is still allowed to communicate via regular and electronic mail though such missives are monitored. The only private communications inmates are permitted are those deemed to be legal in nature.
"A couple of the members have moved here and visit him on the weekends," Hall said.
"I don't know about a church, it's just a way of communicating with Tony," Hall said when asked if Alamo loyalists were establishing a new ministry in Tucson near their jailed leader.
Hall said Alamo's physical health seems to have benefited from the move from a county jail in downtown Texarkana to the federal prison in Tucson.
"Jail in Arizona agrees with him more than jail in Texarkana," Hall said. "Probably because he gets to go outdoors."
Alamo, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, was found guilty of all 10 counts in a federal indictment accusing him of bringing five women he'd wed as children across state lines for sex.
U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes sentenced Alamo to 175 years, the maximum, at a hearing in November.
In January, jailhouse recordings of Alamo's conversations with followers were used by child welfare officials to demonstrate the lingering grip Alamo maintains over his devotees. The parental rights of some members were terminated by a Miller County circuit judge after they refused to find housing and employment independent of the controversial ministry.