Photo: Tony Alamo and his wife Susan in an undated image.
(AP/Tony Alamo Christian Ministries)
TEXARKANA, Arkansas (CBS/AP) Evangelist Tony Alamo has been convicted of being a pervert pastor and taking underage girls across state lines for sex.
Now the evangelist will spend the rest of his life behind bars after being sentenced Friday to 175 years in prison for molesting children that he took as "brides" in his ministry.
During Friday's hearing, some of Alamo's victims testified about how their families were destroyed while the evangelist took over their lives.
Alamo, 75, is a one-time street preacher who built a multimillion-dollar ministry and became an outfitter of the stars. He had been convicted in July on a 10-count federal indictment. U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes said Alamo used his status as father figure and pastor and threatened the girls with "the loss of their salvation."
"Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a greater judge than me, may he have mercy on your soul," Barnes said.
Photo: Evangelist Tony Alamo is led from the federal courthouse in downtown Texarkana, Ark. Friday July 17, 2009.
Just before Barnes sentenced Alamo, the evangelist offered a brief statement to the court praising God then later adding:
"I'm glad I'm me and not the deceived people in the world."
Alamo's lawyers said they planned to appeal Barnes' ruling. His defense offered a doctor who said he suffered from hardening arteries, diabetes, glaucoma and other health problems. However on cross-examination the doctor acknowledged he saw Alamo only once in 2004 and that the purpose of Alamo's visit was to get an eye lift to make him appear younger.
The evangelist will stay in Texarkana pending a Jan. 13 hearing in which Barnes will decide whether Alamo's victims will get restitution from him. After that hearing, Barnes said Alamo would go to a federal prison that has hospital facilities.
A woman Alamo took as a child "bride" at age 8 challenged the evangelist from the witness stand Friday to submit himself to God's judgment. Reading from lined notebook paper, she said Alamo tore her family apart by taking her as a child bride and described how she shook uncontrollably when he first molested her.
Photo: Tony Alamo Christian Church, Sept. 20, 2008, after FBI agents and state police raided the evangelist's headquarters.
(AP Photo/Mike Wintroath)
"You preyed on innocent children," she said staring down Alamo, who wore yellow prison scrubs and a windbreaker for the hearing.
"You have the audacity to ask for mercy. What mercy did you show us?" she said.
A moment later she asked, "What kind of man of God does what you have done?"
The woman told Barnes that she planned to become an FBI agent in order to help other child sex abuse victims.
Two other child brides testified. One, who said she is now employed full-time and has a life of her own outside of the ministry, said she hoped Alamo would spend the rest of his life in jail.
"Maybe the real God, not the God you made up, will have mercy on your soul," the woman said.
Barnes said there was ample evidence that Alamo engaged in a pattern of molesting younger and younger girls in his ministry.
Alamo accused his victims of lying, as he has done throughout his prosecution.
PREVIOUSLY ON CRIMESIDER
07/24/09 - Prison for Pervert Preacher: Evangelist Convicted on 10 Sex-Abuse Counts
07/20/09 - Inside the Secretive, Perverted Compound of a Fallen Evangelist
07/16/09 - Million Dollar Man of God 'Married' 8-Year-Old, Say Feds