Saturday, November 14, 2009

TONY ALAMO:Evangelist Gets 175 Years For Sex Crimes

Evangelist Tony Alamo used his stature as a self-proclaimed prophet to force underage girls into sham marriages with him, controlling his followers with their fears of eternal suffering.

But the judge who sentenced Alamo on Friday to 175 years in prison for child sexual abuse warned of another kind of justice awaiting the aging evangelist.

"Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a higher and a greater judge than me," U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes told the preacher. "May he have mercy on your soul."

Barnes leveled the maximum sentence against the 75-year-old, who preyed on followers' young daughters and took child "brides" as young as age 8. A jury convicted Alamo in July on a 10-count indictment accusing him of taking the girls across state lines for sex.

Alamo, who has made millions through his ministry, also must pay $250,000 in fines. He will return to court for a Jan. 13 hearing at which Barnes will determine if the five women who testified about their sexual abuse will be paid restitution. Federal prosecutors say an expert believes each one should get $2.7 million for the physical and mental abuse they endured.

Barnes said Alamo used his influence as both a father figure and a pastor to force himself upon impressionable girls who feared "the loss of their salvation."

"You are described by others who testified as a prophet of God, a person of trust, a person of supreme authority in the church," Barnes said, staring the pale preacher. "It's hard to imagine the scenario and the damage that occurred to these five young girls."

Alamo, who had muttered and cursed through his two-week trial, stood silently during the sentencing, dressed in a yellow prison uniform and a blue windbreaker. Before Barnes' ruling, Alamo told the judge: "I lean on the lord Jesus Christ."