|Teen Tells of Beatings at Evangelist's Compound
October 22, 2008
TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — A teenager described being beaten at Tony Alamo's compound as he testified Wednesday as a witness for prosecutors seeking to block the evangelist from being released from jail while awaiting trial.
Spencer Ondirsek, 18, testified that he left the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound last year after living there for seven years.
Alamo, 74, is in federal custody while waiting to stand trial, scheduled for next month, on charges that he took minors across state lines for sex.
Ondirsek, the first witness called by prosecutors, said he was beaten by a man working under Alamo's direction. He said he was hit about 15 times in the face and smacked about 30 times with a three-foot paddle on three separate occasions. He said he was being disciplined for minor misbehavior, such as playing around with a spray bottle.
The first beating happened when he was 12 or 13, Ondirsek testified.
A federal charging document accuses Alamo of taking a 13-year-old girl across state lines for sex in 2004 and of aiding and abetting her transport across state lines for sex in 2005.
Alamo is an advocate of allowing girls to marry when they reach puberty but has denied such unions took place within his organization.
Alamo, who is listed in court documents by his real name of Bernie Lazar Hoffman, has pleaded not guilty to the two charges, each of which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
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