Judge dismisses lawsuit by Alamo former wives

Texarkana Gazette/January 3, 2014

By Lynn LaRowe

A federal civil lawsuit filed in 2010 on behalf of former wives of imprisoned evangelist and polygamist Tony Alamo has been dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey inked an order Thursday stating that the allegations of violations of federal law cannot continue.

However, Hickey declined to rule on issues in the case, which allege violations of state law.

That means the plaintiffs, six former wives of Alamo and another woman who alleges she escaped Alamo Ministries in Fouke, Ark., as a teen being groomed to be an Alamo wife, can refile the suit in state court.

Hickey’s order dismissing the federal claims against Tony Alamo, his public wife Sharon Alamo, Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church Inc. and Jeanne Estates Apartments Inc. pointed to a number of legal issues in the federal claims, which she stated shouldn’t be brought before a jury.

But Hickey’s order states the plaintiffs’ claims of civil violations under state law should be handled by a state court.

“The core of plaintiffs’ claims, both state and federal, are the acts of sexual and physical abuse … perpetrated by Tony Alamo and allegedly facilitated by the other defendants in this suit,” Hickey’s order states. “None of the parties have disputed that the state claims are related enough to the federal claims for this court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them… In the 8th Circuit, the preference is for a court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction when all federal claims have been eliminated before trial.”

Those issues include: negligent entrustment, negligent hiring, mandatory reporter liability, defamation, negligence, outrage, battery, false imprisonment and invasion of privacy.

The women’s lawyers, David Carter of Texarkana and Neil Smith of Irving, Texas, may have the option of filing a new suit on their clients’ behalves in an Arkansas state court or one in California.

During Alamo’s 2009 federal criminal trial, witnesses testified the women were sexually, physically and emotionally abused from childhood on Alamo compounds in Fouke, Ark.; Fort Smith, Ark.; Saugus, Calif.; on properties in Oklahoma; and on multi-state trips.

Some of the defendants initially listed in the suit, including a security company and insurance companies, which covered Alamo real estate, have settled out of court with the women privately. The terms of those settlements are undisclosed.

“In this action’s original configuration, there were seven plaintiffs, 25 defendants, and 15 third-party defendants. There was also a very large number of counter-claims and cross-claims,” Hickey’s order states.

Alamo, 79, whose given name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman, is currently serving a 175-year term in federal prison for bringing five women he wed as children across state lines for sex. The victims in Alamo’s criminal case are among the plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit dismissed Thursday by Hickey.

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