TEXARKANA, AR (KSLA) - A magistrate has ordered evangelist Tony Alamo to remain in federal custody until his trial on charges that he took minors across state lines for sex.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant ordered the 74-year-old defendant detained after former Alamo followers testified that they were beaten at his instruction and that he practiced polygamy with several young women, including a 9-year-old girl.
Earlier in the day, 18-year-old Spencer Ondirsek testified that he left the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound last year after living there for seven years.
Ondirsek, the first witness called by prosecutors, said he was beaten by a man working under Alamo's direction. Ondirsek testified that he was hit about 15 times in the face and smacked about 30 times with a three-foot paddle on three separate instances. He said he was being disciplined for minor misbehavior, such as playing around with a spray bottle.
Alamo has been in custody in Texarkana since earlier this month when federal agents tracked him down n Flagstaff, AZ and arrested him.
The 74 year old head of the Tony Alamo Ministries, based in Fouke, AR, is charged with transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes, as well as aiding and abetting. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in court last week.
The charges stem from a federal investigation that culminated with a raid on Alamo's compound in late September. During that time, investigators seized information and took six children who lived there into protective custody.
Those children were scheduled to under hearings regarding their future custody this week. However, those court proceedings have been postponed until next month.
If Alamo is convicted of the charges against him, he faces a possible life sentence and $250,000 in fines.