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Jurors Convict Evangelist on 10 Sex Counts

Tony Alamo, a one-time street preacher who became an outfitter of the stars and fought the federal government over claims he underpaid followers for church work, was convicted Friday of taking five girls across state lines for sex.

The jury of nine men and three women found Alamo guilty of taking girls as young as 9 across state lines for sex, in violation of a nearly century-old federal law. Alamo was accused in a 10-count indictment that said the abuse started in 1994. Sentencing will be in six to eight weeks.

Women ranging from 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.

Alamo, 74, never testified. His lawyers told him he should not directly challenge their testimony and they argued to jurors that the girls traveled for legitimate church business.

State and federal agents raided Alamo's compound last Sept. 20 after repeated reports of abuse.

Defense lawyers said the government targeted Alamo because it doesn't like his apocalyptic brand of Christianity. Alamo has blamed the Vatican for his legal troubles, which include a four-year prison term for tax evasion in the 1990s.

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.

At times, men were ordered away from the compound and their wives kept as another Alamo bride. Minor offenses from either gender drew beatings or starvation fasts.

Alamo remained defiant as jurors heard testimony for a week. He openly referred to the Branch Davidian raid at Waco, Texas, muttered expletives during others' testimony and fell asleep at times - while alleged victims spoke from the witness stand and again as prosecutors urged his conviction.