interactive timeline following the trial of flamboyant evangelist Tony Alamo can be found in the -national/alamo-trial folder. AP Photo TXTEX301 By JON GAMBRELL= Associated Press Writer=
TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) - The woman considered to be the common-law wife of evangelist Tony Alamo told jurors at his sex-crimes trial Tuesday that she thought the wedding rings in his bedroom were gifts to the ministry, and that she didn't notice that younger and younger girls were living with them.
Sharon Alamo, who was testifying for the defense, appeared at times to be reading from a notebook she took to the stand with her. The judge told her to rely on her memory. When lawyers took a break to confer, Tony Alamo gave her a thumbs-up.
Tony Alamo, 74, is accused of taking five young girls across state lines for sex between 1994 and 1995 after "marrying" them. Defense lawyers say prosecutors targeted him because the government is anti-Christian. Alamo, who has pleaded not guilty, has also said the Vatican is behind his troubles.
Sharon Alamo, 50, acknowledged to jurors that she had seen young women wearing wedding rings around the house.
"Didn't you notice the girls moving into the defendant's residence ... were getting younger and younger?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes asked.
"No, I didn't," she replied.
She said believed the collection of wedding rings found in Alamo's bedroom were gifts to the ministry. Prosecution witnesses have testified that rings were given to underage girls when Alamo "married" them.
Sharon Alamo said she never formally married Alamo but lives with him, took his name and conducted business as his wife. She also said she allowed Alamo to call her "a weasel, a rotten bastard and a liar" to help him get his anger out.
"We were together for a while but decided to separate but still live and work together," Sharon Alamo said. As she spoke, Alamo muttered to his lawyers, "They don't understand it's a spiritual marriage."
When Sharon Alamo stepped away from the stand, Tony Alamo turned and said, "Bye, baby."
Another witness - the mother of an 18-year-old woman who said testified last week that she was "married" to Alamo at age 8 - spoke to jurors for 15 minutes before U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes ordered her remarks stricken from the record.
The woman, a key aide to Alamo, refused to say where she had been since a Sept. 20 raid on his Arkansas compound. She has four underage children who are being sought by state welfare officials. She had told jurors she was "hiding from harassment" and that her daughter was "constantly trouble." In the judge's chambers, she claimed her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Last week, the 18-year-old told jurors that her parents had interfered with her attempt to enter foster care in New Mexico by telling welfare officials that all was fine in Arkansas and that she was a liar.
In her brief remarks to jurors, the woman said Alamo had interceded with Christ on her behalf as she faced a medical emergency involving her heart.
Over four days of graphic testimony, five women said they "married" Alamo as teens or preteens and were sexually assaulted by him. They said they traveled to other states for sex with him or responded to his call and returned to Arkansas and had sex with him.
Sharon Alamo said from the stand that the trips with the girls were for legitimate church purposes.
Alamo has said the girls, part of his estimated 100-200 followers, were traveling to help spread the ministry's teachings. His apocalyptic tracts outline his hatred of the Vatican and his feared "one-world government" as well as his belief in flying saucers.
Alamo told reporters on the way to court Tuesday that he planned to take the stand, despite his lawyers' advice against it. Each of the 10 counts against him is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case against Alamo earlier Tuesday after playing recordings of telephone calls he made while being held before trial. On one, he told a girl who questioned one of his orders that he still ruled the Arkansas compound.
"Just because I'm in jail, you'll find out that I'm still in charge. OK, kid? You understand?" Alamo told the girl, who is not among those he is accused of abusing.
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