Two cite beatings, file suit on Alamo

Arkansas Democrat Gazette/November 27, 2008

Texarkana - A beating administered by evangelist Tony Alamo and the man described as his "enforcer," John Kolbeck, at Alamo's religious compound in Fouke last year caused "serious and permanent injury" to a teenager's left hand and wrist, according to a lawsuit filed by the teenager and another former church member.

Eighteen-year-old Spencer Ondirsek said in the lawsuit that Alamo struck him three times during the beating. At one point, he said, Alamo taunted him, saying, "You think I like doing this ? I love doing this !" The lawsuit was filed by Ondirsek and Seth Calagna, who is also 18, on Tuesday afternoon in U. S. District Court in Texarkana. Both teens left the church this year and now live in the Spokane, Wash., area.

Their attorney, W. David Carter of Texarkana, Texas, said Alamo has made "millions" through his businesses in Arkansas, California and New Jersey, and the teens are hoping to put a dent in the organization. Carter said he's also hoping that other former members file similar suits.

"Any organization that's going to oppress people like that, if you get a number of judgments against them, they're no longer going to be able to do that," Carter said.

Alamo, 74, has been incarcerated since his arrest in Arizona on Sept. 25 on charges of transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes after an investigation by the FBI and Arkansas State Police. According to his attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock, Alamo is charged with engaging in sexual acts with five underage girls since as early as 1994.

Alamo has pleaded innocent to the charges and has denied that the church administers beatings.

Authorities are still searching for Kolbeck, 49, who is wanted on a charge of seconddegree battery in a beating that Calagna said he received at a warehouse in Fort Smith earlier this year.

If he can't find Kolbeck, Carter said he will publish a notice of the lawsuit in the newspaper and ask a judge to declare a default judgment.

At a hearing in Alamo's criminal case in October, Ondirsek, who was born into the church, testified that he plays the piano and had attended a music school in California.

The lawsuit says Ondirsek's hand was injured while he was trying to protect himself from Kolbeck's blows.

Carter said Ondirsek's hand is still "stiff" from the beating, and Ondirsek is concerned about it affecting his ability to play.

"That's one of the things we're going to have evaluated by a doctor," Carter said.

The teenagers say in the lawsuit that Alamo ordered the beatings that Kolbeck carried out.

Each time, Kolbeck would strike the teen in the face several times, then hit him on the buttocks with a board, the teens allege.

Ondirsek said he was beaten at the Fouke compound three times, at ages 12, 14 and 17. During the most recent beating, in October, Alamo reportedly introduced Kolbeck by saying, "Here's Johnny !" The beating reportedly stopped when Ondirsek blacked out.

Calagna said in the lawsuit that, in addition to being beaten at the warehouse in Fouke, he was beaten at the compound in Fouke in 2006. After that beating, he said, his face remained swollen for several weeks.

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