Lori and Arthur "Tommy" Allain said in interviews Friday that they still don't think they can get a fair trial here, but they are nonetheless confident they will get a not-guilty verdict next month.
The Allains are the couple accused of child abuse who skipped their trial in late October and went on the lam for 2 1/2 months before getting caught in January in New Jersey. Their new trial is set to start March 15. The two of them can't have contact with each other in the jail because they are co-defendants.
Friday's interviews with the Times at the Hernando County Jail marked the first time they have talked to anybody in the news media since they were extradited from New Jersey and brought back to Florida.
"I have a lot of confidence," Lori Allain said in a 30-minute video-monitor interview. "I have a lot of faith in the fact that Tommy and I will be found not guilty."
"We didn't do nothing," Tommy Allain said. "How can you punish somebody for doing nothing?"
Neither of them would say where they were in the 10 or so weeks they were on the run.
But both said trial week can't come quick enough. Both said the Hernando County jail isn't as bad as some make it out to be. And both cried when they talked about their four boys - and each other.
Lori Allain said she does next to nothing every day in jail. "I'm serious," she said. "Absolutely nothing." Tommy Allain said he writes letters to Kristen Staab, the couple's 23-year-old daughter who lives in Spring Hill; paces in his cell; and reads the Bible. He likes Isaiah 29:20-21 more than any other passage:
The ruthless will vanish,
the mockers will disappear,
and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down -
those who with a word make a man out to be guilty,
who ensnare the defender in court
and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
Lori Allain, 49, and Tommy Allain, 47, were originally arrested in June 2004 and accused of starving their 10-year-old foster daughter down to 29 pounds. When they didn't show up for their trial on Oct. 25, Circuit Judge Jack Springstead issued warrants for their arrest with no option for bail.
Lori Allain's first phone call to the Times came Dec. 29. That started almost two weeks of calls in which both of the Allains said they are targets of a countywide conspiracy involving the sheriff, the courts, the State Attorney's Office and the state Department of Children and Families. Jan. 11, though, when police knocked on the door of Room 150 of the Quality Inn in Toms River, N.J., their time on the lam ended.
And so did the Times' talks with the Allains.
The couple's four biological sons have been back from New Jersey since last Friday. Circuit Judge Richard Tombrink gave Staab and her boyfriend custody of the kids in a hearing Feb. 3. The boys range in age from 12 to 17.
Tommy Allain said Friday he doesn't write his boys as much as he does Staab.
"It's too hard for me," he said.
Both of them said they were being treated okay in the Hernando jail - a place, they told the Times early last month, where they didn't think they would feel safe due to their notoriety.
"They're good people," Lori Allain said of the corrections officers. "They're not uncompassionate. The food's pretty bad, but the rest of it, to me, it's like a friggin' day care.
"It's really hard to choke that out. But the truth is the truth."
Both said they worry about getting an impartial jury.
"Where are you going to find somebody who doesn't know us in Hernando County?" Lori Allain said.
Other than that, though, they were straightforward and vehement in their confidence going into the much anticipated trial, which is now less than a month away.
"I'm a black-and-white person," Tommy Allain said. "It's either black or white, or right or wrong . . . You stick your hand in the fire, it burns; if you don't, it don't.
"I believe we're going to walk out of that courtroom."
Michael Kruse can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.