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Anti-Catholic, pro-polygamy evangelist Tony Alamo will likely be preaching from behind prison walls for the rest of his life, and perhaps nobody is happier than his stepdaughter, Christhiaon Coie.
“I started crying and screaming,” Coie told Hatewatch, upon hearing that Alamo was convicted today by a federal court jury in Texarkana, Ark., on all 10 counts of transporting underage girls across state lines for sex. Alamo, 74, faces up to 175 years in prison, plus fines that could total $2.5 million.
Coie says she was raped by Alamo when she was younger. “I’ve been in this fight, trying to stop him, for nearly 40 years.”
Alamo was charged last year with transporting girls to other states over a period of 14 years for sexual purposes. His lawyers argued that Alamo took the girls places on church business, not for sex. Alamo did not testify at his trial but did fall asleep a few times during closing arguments. “I’m just one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel,” he shouted to reporters as he was led out of the courthouse. He will be sentenced in six to eight weeks.
“I believe he will spend the rest of his natural life in prison,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner, who prosecuted Alamo, told Hatewatch.
Alamo’s birth name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman. He met Coie’s mother, Susan, when Coie was in her teens. The couple began Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in 1969 in California. Followers say they were disciplined with beatings and food deprivation, and threatened with losing their spouses and children. His dogma included blaming the Catholic church for everything from communism and Nazism to the Jonestown massacre. He compared the Vatican to a prostitute. He also ranted about gays and the government.
The Alamos moved the cult’s headquarters to Arkansas in 1975, where they lived in a mansion with a heart-shaped pool. Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982. Her husband oversaw a thriving designer jacket business in the 1980s that was popular with celebrities. But Tony Alamo served four years in prison in the 1990s for income tax evasion.
Alamo maintains that girls should marry when they begin menstruating. It’s that apparent predilection for young girls that prompted federal agents to raid his 15-acre compound last September in the town of Foulke, near the Texas state line. One girl told the FBI that Alamo repeatedly fondled her when she was 8, then “married” her in May 2000 when she was 9. She was still 9 when he took lewd photos of her and had intercourse with her, she said. He watched adult porn films with her in his bedroom, she added. A second girl said she was 12 when Alamo had intercourse with her. When she was 14, Alamo took her to California, where he had sex with her in motel rooms and at his California compound, she said. An informant told the FBI that she saw Alamo sometimes take more than one girl at a time to his bedroom, where he kept candy bars and a Barbie doll collection.
“The only woman he has ever respected is my mother. He feared and worshiped her,” said Coie, who lives in California. “I knew what he was doing. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that somebody finally listened … and stopped him.”