Feb 17, 2016

Sect leader on parole

Taos News

February 17, 2016

Adrew Oxford

The man considered a messiah by members of a Christian sect and convicted in 2008 of criminal sexual contact with an underage girl during what he claimed to be a religious ceremony was freed from prison last week.

Wayne Bent, 74, was released on supervised parole Feb. 11 and has registered as a sex offender, according to records from the New Mexico Corrections Department.

A lengthy “last will and testimony” offering what is purported to be Bent’s take on the case against him has since been posted on a website dedicated to the sect leader.

“The Appeals Court judges, the Supreme Court justices and the district court judge have all stated their opinions in my legal case,” says the letter, which was posted Feb. 14. “Now I would like to tell my story and issue my opinion of it.”

The letter, purportedly written by Bent, maintains he never molested the teenage girl he was convicted of inappropriately touching.

The letter mentions a videotaped interview the girl provided to his attorney in 2010 during which she denied he was guilty of any crime and called for the sect leader’s release.

Bent founded the Lord Our Righteousness Church in 1987. Based near Clayton, it has been described as a cult. 

The 2006 incident that led to the charges against Bent are said to have been part of a religious ceremony connected to the Book of Revelations during which virgin women and girls were to lie naked with the nude Bent, who testified he touched them on their sternums. Two of the girls, ages 14 and 16, were sisters. Bent was indicted on two counts of criminal sexual contact and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A jury in Taos convicted him on all but one count of criminal sexual contact and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The letter posted on WayneBent.com describes the case against Bent as religious persecution.

“My greatest offense in all the world was that I showed myself independent from them and my testimony was that I was led of God. For this they called me a 'cult leader,' but there is no 'cult' greater than theirs,” Bent writes. “Our church does not persecute those who are different, but they have persecuted us.”

Bent’s release from prison concludes a legal odyssey that included an appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court and a writ of habeas corpus.

In November, Judge Abigail Aragon ordered the New Mexico Corrections Department release Bent by the end of 2015 on numerous conditions, including that he register as a sex offender and not have contact with children.

The Eighth Judicial District Attorney’s Office did not oppose Bent’s release on supervision, which also includes electronic monitoring.

But Bent remained behind bars as lawyers for New Mexico’s prison system maintained they did not have authority to release him without approval from the state’s parole board, which reportedly met earlier this month.

The lawyer representing Bent asked for his quick release so he may receive treatment for cancer.

Bent’s health is deteriorating, attorney John McCall indicated.

The septuagenarian is at risk of losing hearing in both ears if he does not undergo surgery, McCall said.

Family members said after Bent’s court appearance last month he would return to the church's ranch near Clayton. But the state’s sex offender registry lists Bent as living at an address in Raton.

http://www.taosnews.com/news/article_80ca7cb0-d539-11e5-ad7c-eb705b08a880.html

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