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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Life Sentence Upheld for Preacher’s Sex Offenses

(CN) - The 8th Circuit rejected an appeal from Bernie Lazar Hoffman aka Tony Alamo, an evangelist who was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sex crimes.

Hoffman was convicted of 10 counts of transporting five minor females across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity. An FBI investigation found that the one-time preacher traveled with young children between 1994 and 2005.

"The trial evidence in this case is voluminous and includes testimony from many people, including each of the five girls that Hoffman made his 'wife,' some even at the tender age of 8," Circuit Judge C. Arlen Beam wrote for the court.

Hoffman was sentenced in Arkansas federal court after several of Hoffman's "wives" testified that Hoffman brought them across state lines for sex.

"In the instances where Hoffman did not travel with the girls, the testimony revealed that Hoffman, alone, determined the length of the trip and directed the girls when to return to Arkansas, where he engaged in sexual intercourse with each girl shortly upon her return," according to the appeals court ruling.

Hoffman appealed his sentence, claiming that the jury's verdict is not supported by the evidence and that the sentencing judge was tainted by his personal sense of religion.

While delivering Hoffman's sentence, the district judge said, "Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a higher and greater judge than me. May he have mercy on your soul."

The St. Louis circuit upheld the verdict and sentence.

"This is not a case ... of an immoral person merely traveling from place to place indulging in illegal or immoral acts incidentally," Beam wrote. "The evidence here clearly demonstrated that in each instance Hoffman directed the travel and transport of these girls across state lines for the purpose of engaging in proscribed sexual acts, thus supporting the jury's conviction on each and every charge."

Beam also dismissed the Hoffman's claim that the district judge was acting upon a religious agenda.

"Reviewing the entire sentencing transcript and placing these challenged comments by the district court in context, as we should, the district court based its sentence on its analysis of appropriate factors," the ruling states. "The court's acknowledgment that Hoffman used his position of power over these girls in the commission of these crimes was most certainly reasonable, and in fact it is expected this would play a role in the court's analysis at sentencing.

"Further, the brief comment about a 'higher and greater judge,' and '[m]ay he have mercy on your soul,' may be interpreted to be religious in nature but in no way does it appear to have been an inappropriate driving force or improper consideration during the court's sentencing of Hoffman. Indeed, religion was a pervasive theme underlying the entire trial. It is thus not surprising that religion might have been mentioned at sentencing."

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