Court overturns cult leader Wayne Bent’s convictions

The New Mexico Court of Appeals on Tuesday tossed out the convictions of a religious group’s leader who had been found guilty of sexual misconduct with teenage followers.

The Associated Press reports:

The court ruled a grand jury’s term had expired months before it returned an indictment against Wayne Bent and that a district judge didn’t have the power to extend its term. A three-judge panel of the court ordered the case back to district court and said the 70-year-old Bent is to be released from custody.

The court left open the option that charges could be refiled.

Bent was sentenced in 2008 to 10 years in prison for criminal sexual contact with a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. […]

Bent, who calls himself Michael Travesser, is the leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church. Its followers live in a compound they call Strong City in a rural area near the community of Clayton, close to the New Mexico-Colorado border. […]

Bent was a minister for the Seventh-day Adventist Church but separated from it more than 20 years ago. He claims God spoke to him in 2000 and told him he was the Messiah.

A jury convicted Bent of the felonies for lying in bed with naked 14- and 16-year-old sisters in separate incidents in 2006.

Bent and the sisters testified the incidents were spiritual exercises and nothing happened sexually. The teens said Bent did not touch intimate areas, and Bent testified he had placed his hands on the sternums, but not the breasts, of the girls.

NewsChannel 10 allowed inside self proclaimed messiah’s compound

Clayton, NM — Nearly two years after the arrest of self proclaimed messiah Wayne Bent, NewsChannel 10 became the first media allowed inside the Strong City compound north of Clayton.

Even after their spiritual leader went to prison, life continues for the group that says they’re leaving everything in God’s hands.

If you spend a day walking around the remote property of the Lord Our Righteousness Church in Northern Union County, and you wouldn’t believe you were amongst what New Mexico State Police call an apocalyptic cult.

One member of the group, Anaiah, says, “God brought us out here into this wilderness place, to bring us into a quietness not only in our environment but into our hearts.”

The 2008 arrest of their spiritual leader, self proclaimed messiah Wayne Bent, rocked that quiet.

Since then, the group of about 35 say they’ve become even closer.

Bent’s son, Jeff Bent, says, “When persecution comes, people tend to drop whatever remaining differences they have, and kind of collectively pull together.”
[…]

Now, while they wait for their messiah to return to Strong City, they look forward to the time God takes them and all Christians off this earth completely.
[…]

Bent’s lawyers have filed an appeal, and are awaiting the response from the state.
[…more…]

– Source / Full Story: NewsChannel 10 allowed inside self proclaimed messiah’s compound in Union County, KFDA, NewsChannel 10 (NM)– Summarized by Religion News Blog

Cult?

Theologically, the Lord Our Righteousness Church (aka Strong City), is a cult of Christianity since its teachings and practices fall far outside the boundaries of the Christian faith it claims to represent.

Sociologically the group has cult-like elements as well.

Note the differences between theological and sociological definitions of the term ‘cult.’

See Also

Cult leader Wayne Bent found guilty
More about Wayne Bent
Background of Bent’s ‘Strong City’ cult

New Mexico Supreme Court denies cult leader Wayne Bent’s bond petition

Wayne Bent New Mexico’s highest court has denied sect leader Wayne Bent‘s petition to be released on bond from prison while he appeals his convictions for sexual misconduct with teenage female followers, AP reports.

The Supreme Court denied the petition without explanation, as had the Court of Appeals.

AP also says Bent is being force-fed. A judge cleared the way for that after the cult leader tried to starve himself by means of an extended fast in protest of his imprisonment. [Read more...]

AG opposes cult leader Wayne Bent’s bond petition

Wayne Bent New Mexico attorney General Gary King’s office is opposing cult leader Wayne Bent’s petition to the state Supreme Court for bond while awaiting appeal.

Bent’s previous filings on district and state levels were both denied. Assistant Attorney General Margaret McLean asks the Supreme Court to uphold the previous courts’ rulings.

She cites no “clear and convincing” evidence that Bent, Strong City leader, won’t flee or pose danger to another person or community. She also says a reversal or order for a new trial is unlikely and argues there are no grounds to revisit granting an appeal bond. [Read more...]

Court could intervene on cult leader’s fast

Wayne Bent Cult leader Wayne Bent is scheduled to be in court on Wednesday as a judge decides whether the state should force feed him.

Bent wrote letters to his cult in Union County letting them know that he will begin fasting on Sept. 1.

His fourth week of fasting is fast approaching, he will not have any food or water. Now the state is rushing a decision to intervene and force feed him with IVs and tubes.

Medical experts said that within seven days of no water, his organs will begin to break down.

Jeff Bent, Wayne Bent’s son, said the state needs to accept his father’s wishes and religious practices and not force him to eat. [Read more...]