Custody hearings for children taken from Alamo Ministries continues

TEXARKANA, AR (AP) - Lawyers from across Arkansas are expected in Miller County Monday as a custody hearing for 20 children taken from parents who attend the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries continues.

The initial probable cause hearings will focus on whether state child welfare officials had enough evidence to seize the children November 18. Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson will hear the cases in courtroom on the second floor of the Miller County courthouse, which will be closed to the public and reporters.

Officials say some of the parents of the 20 children seized have already called asking for legal help.

Alamo was arrested in September, days after his compound in Fouke was raided by state and federal agents. Six girls, between ages 10 and 17, were seized for their own protection after the raid. Hearings continue over whether those girls can return to their parents.

Alamo faces federal charges that he took minors across state lines for sex. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has repeatedly said he is innocent, placing blame on a federal push to legalize same-sex marriage while outlawing polygamy.

Nelson Shaw, who works as an ad litem attorneys for children in Miller County, says the number of people expected to attend tomorrow's hearing could pose problems, as they could have "some anger and anxiety."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)