Tony Alamo, a one-time street preacher who built a multimillion-dollar ministry and became an outfitter of the stars, has been convicted of taking young girls across state lines for sex.
"I'm just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel," Alamo told reporters as he was escorted to a U.S. marshal's vehicle.
Alamo stood silently as the verdict was read, a contrast to his occasional mutterings and frequent naps during testimony. His five victims sat looking forward in the gallery; one of them, a woman he "married" at age 8, wiped away a tear.
Alamo's lawyer, Don Ervin, said the evidence against the 74-year-old preacher was insufficient and that Alamo would appeal, though he agreed that Alamo's criminal history—he served four years in prison on tax charges in the 1990s—"will hurt him" at sentencing in six to eight weeks."
And it just might. "We believe he will face the rest of his natural life in prison," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner. The penalties on the 10 charges total 175 years in prison and violations of the century-old Mann Act also carry fines of up to $250,000 each.
The five women, now age 17 to 33, told jurors that Alamo "married" them in private ceremonies while they were minors, sometimes giving them wedding rings. Each detailed trips beyond Arkansas' borders for Alamo's sexual gratification, though Alamo claims the trips were "church business."
State and federal agents raided Alamo's compound last September after repeated reports of abuse, though defense lawyers said the government targeted Alamo because it doesn't like his apocalyptic brand of Christianity. Alamo, himself, has blamed the Vatican for his legal troubles.
With little physical evidence, prosecutors relied on the women's stories to paint an emotional portrait of a charismatic religious leader who controlled every aspect of his subjects' lives. No one obtained food, clothing or transportation without him knowing about it.
In the end, prosecutors convinced jurors that Alamo's ministry offered him the opportunity to prey on the young girls of loyal followers who believed him to be a prophet who spoke directly to God. They described a ministry that ran on the fear of drawing the anger of "Papa Tony."
Just another case of religious leaders using any means necessary to get what they want.