LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal appeals court upheld the criminal convictions of Tony Alamo yesterday, finding the 76-year-old evangelist took underage girls across state lines with the primary purpose of sexually exploiting them.
Jurors convicted Alamo last year on 10 counts of violating the Mann Act, a century-old law originally aimed at stopping women from being sold into prostitution.
Prosecutors said Alamo traveled the country with his young “wives,’’ including one who testified that she was 8 years old when she was forced to enter a spiritual marriage with the preacher.
Alamo is serving 175 years in a prison in Terre Haute, Ind.
“The evidence here clearly demonstrated that in each instance [Alamo] directed the travel and transport of these girls across state lines for the purpose of engaging in proscribed sexual acts,’’ the appeals court said.
Alamo, born Bernie Lazar Hoffman, argued there wasn’t enough evidence to prove his guilt.
“The fight’s not over. We still have remedies,’’ his attorney, John Wesley Hall, said yesterday, adding that he planned to ask the US Supreme Court to consider the case.
Five women, ages 17 to 33, testified that Alamo “married’’ them in private ceremonies while they were minors, sometimes giving them rings. Each detailed trips beyond Arkansas’ borders for Alamo’s sexual gratification.
Alamo also challenged statements a judge made when he sentenced the evangelist. US District Judge Harry Barnes said, “Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a higher and greater judge than me. May he have mercy on your soul.’’
Alamo argued the judge was influenced by religious factors, which should not be considered during sentencing.