|Judge Gives Lawyer 90 Days to Find Alleged Enforcer of Evangelist Tony Alamo for Civil Suit
By Jon Gambrell
The Seattle Times
March 18, 2009
A lawyer who filed a civil lawsuit against Tony Alamo has 90 days to track down the man who reportedly served as the jailed evangelist's enforcer, even though the man being sought has successfully eluded arrest on state and federal warrants for months.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A lawyer who filed a civil lawsuit against Tony Alamo has 90 days to track down the man who reportedly served as the jailed evangelist's enforcer, even though the man being sought has successfully eluded arrest on state and federal warrants for months.
U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes issued an order Wednesday setting the deadline for finding John Erwin Kolbeck, 49, of Fort Smith. Both Alamo and Kolbeck are named in a federal civil lawsuit filed by two former ministry members who claim they were beaten and abused as teenagers.
W. David Carter, a Texarkana, Texas, lawyer representing the former followers, had asked for 120 more days to track down Kolbeck and serve him with a summons for the civil suit. In a one-page order, Barnes cut that time by one-fourth without comment.
Carter said his office had received no tips on where Kolbeck might be. If Kolbeck can't be found, Carter said he likely would ask a judge to allow him to simply publish notices in local newspapers that the fugitive has been named in the suit. Barring that, Carter said he would ask that the complaint against Alamo proceed, while suspending action against Kolbeck.
"As I understand it, the FBI and the U.S. marshal's office is trying to locate him and take him into custody," Carter said.
The lawsuit on behalf of former followers Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek claims Kolbeck administered beatings with his hands or wooden paddles on Alamo's orders over petty disciplinary infractions, like playing with spray bottles or making a sarcastic remark about Harry Potter. Alamo at one point shouted "Here's Johnny!" when Kolbeck arrived for a beating, mimicking Jack Nicholson's deranged delivery during the film "The Shining," the lawsuit claims.
During another beating by Kolbeck, the lawsuit claims, Alamo hit Ondrisek at least three times himself. The lawsuit claims Alamo taunted Ondrisek by saying, "You think I like doing this? I love doing this!"
The lawsuit asks for more than $75,000 in damages and a jury trial over the alleged beatings that left the two men with emotional distress and scarring.
Since filing the lawsuit in November, Carter said he's received inquiries from other former ministry members and expects to add other plaintiffs to the case.
Kolbeck faces a battery charge over the allegations and is wanted on federal and state felony warrants. However, detectives have received no tips about Kolbeck's whereabouts since he disappeared shortly after a Sept. 20 raid on Alamo's compound in Fouke, Fort Smith police Sgt. Levi Risley said. Alamo, 74, remains jailed pending a federal trial in May over charges that he took young girls across state lines for sex.
Risley said he wouldn't be surprised if Kolbeck had left the country to avoid the charges against him.
"If every law enforcement officer in the country was looking for you, I'd be living it up in Mexico," the sergeant said. "He's doing a pretty good job of hiding."
Also Wednesday, Barnes allowed Little Rock lawyer John Wesley Hall Jr. to remove himself from the case as Alamo's defense lawyer. Hall had represent Alamo until last week, when the evangelist requested the California lawyer Danny Davis serve as attorney.
Barnes gave Alamo 30 days to find a new lawyer for the civil suit. Davis has said he won't represent Alamo in that matter.
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