By JON GAMBRELL
TEXARKANA, Ark. — Jurors are scheduled to begin weighing sex-crimes charges against evangelist Tony Alamo today, deciding whether he will spend the rest of his life in jail.
A jury of nine men and three women will pore over their notes and exhibits from testimony during Alamo’s trial on federal charges that he took five underage girls across state lines for sex. The evangelist faces a 10-count indictment that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.
The jurors are scheduled to begin deliberations early today at the Texarkana federal courthouse, which rests on the state line between Arkansas and Texas.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers offered their final portrayals of the 74-year-old on Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner described Alamo as a manipulator who dictated everything from what his followers believed to what they could eat. At one point, she turned to stare directly at him.
“Your crimes have been exposed in this courtroom,” Jenner said. Alamo sneered and waved her away.
Alamo fell asleep several times during Jenner’s closing argument. At one point, his mouth hung wide open as his head rolled back in his chair. A member of his legal team woke him by throwing a pen onto the defense table. When he was awake, Alamo muttered “bull----” at times during Jenner’s remarks.
Defense lawyer Phillip Kuhn told jurors not to be swayed by testimony unrelated to the indictment — that Alamo may have had multiple wives, or that he may have set up businesses to evade taxes. He said prosecutors deliberately strayed from the specific charges against Alamo.
“Was it to give Tony a fair trial or was it to turn the jury into a moral mob?” Kuhn asked.
Five former followers testified that Alamo took them as underage “wives” as young as age 8 and sexually abused them. They spoke about taking cross-country trips at his command.
Defense attorneys largely stayed away from challenging the accusers’ testimony about sex with the evangelist. Alamo’s lawyers rested their case Wednesday after persuading the flamboyant minister not to testify. Though he had told reporters he would take the stand, Alamo said Wednesday afternoon he chose not to testify in an “unjust court.”
Alamo is charged with violating the Mann Act, a nearly century-old morality law. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.