High court refuses to hear Ark. evangelist appeal

An attorney for an evangelist convicted of taking young girls across state lines for sex said Saturday that he will continue working to get Tony Alamo's sentence reduced or his conviction overtu...

An attorney for an evangelist convicted of taking young girls across state lines for sex said Saturday that he will continue working to get Tony Alamo's sentence reduced or his conviction overturned despite the U.S. Supreme Court refusal to hear an appeal.

Alamo, who was convicted in 2009 of taking five girls he had married across state lines for sex, was sentenced to 175 years in federal prison and ordered to pay each victim $500,000 and was fined $250,000.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal earlier this year and defense attorney John Wesley Hall appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.

The court's refusal to hear the case upholds the lower court ruling, according to U.S. Attorney Connor Eldridge.

The high court's decision not to hear the case was made Monday, according to its website. Hall said he learned of the court's decision, first reported by the Texarkana Gazette, in a letter he received Thursday.

Hall said Saturday that the high court has said that its denial to hear any case is not a reflection of the court's view of the merits of the case.

"You can file a post-conviction petition, to attack the conviction on some denial of rights during the process. Generally, it falls to ineffective counsel at trial," said Hall, who did not represent Alamo during the 2009 trial.

Hall said he has up to a year to submit a filing that would be made in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Texarkana, where the trial was held.

Hall said he has not spoken to Alamo, who was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman.

Eldridge said Saturday that he is as pleased as he was when the jury returned with a guilty verdict.

"Of course, our office feels there is no legal or factual basis to overturn the jury verdict," Eldridge said. "The jury heard the testimony in this case and found Mr. Alamo guilty.

"As we said all along, Mr. Alamo's conduct took a terrible tragic toll on the lives of his victims. At the end of the day he was certainly held accountable by the jury's verdict."

Eldridge said his office is also working to collect the money that Alamo was ordered to pay the victims and the fine.

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