Flamboyant evangelist Tony Alamo pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he directed the beating of a young boy three years ago at the now-defunct commune his religious cult established in Saugus.
“I am innocent and am here to prove it,” the preacher said before entering the plea in Newhall Municipal Court.
Accompanied by a phalanx of attorneys, followers and a bail bondsman from Arkansas--where he was recently acquitted of threatening a federal judge and still faces other legal problems--Alamo surrendered on two felony charges. He was released two hours later after his bail was reduced.
Alamo, 56, is charged with directing followers to beat an 11-year-old boy. Authorities said that the boy was struck with a wooden paddle more than 100 times as a disciplinary measure at the Saugus commune operated by the Holy Alamo Christian Church. After charges were filed, Alamo fled and was considered a fugitive until he was arrested in July in Tampa, Fla.