Update (October 24, 6:47pm PST): WAYNE BENT’S SON HAS JUST POSTED THE FOLLOWING HEADLINE AND BRIEF STORY ON THE CHURCH’S WEB SITE:
D.A. Planning Raid on Strong City
by Jeff Bent | 7:38 PM
I was informed by individuals “in the know” this evening that Deputy District Attorney Tomás Benavidez is trying to obtain a court order against our land this evening. The order specifies the names of three individuals are to be removed from Strong City by force and taken to Las Vegas for mental health evaluation. The order further stipulates that we must allow the sheriff’s office and emergency services to enter the property for the purpose of monitoring the welfare of the members of our church who live here. I learned later that Mr. Benavidez was unsuccessful in finding a judge to sign the order, and that the matter may be shelved until Monday. More to follow …
Update (October 24, 2:48pm PST): If you would like to leave a recorded audio comment, you may do so by calling Beyond90Seconds.com at 310.928.1710. These calls will go to voice mail for this “comment line”. All comments will be considered for playback on this blog. Assuming recorded comments are submitted, they will become available this evening.
(October 22) In a six page Emergency Motion for Evidentiary Hearing filed by the defense on October 16, the plan seemed fairly simple and direct: Convince Judge Gerald E. Baca to allow Wayne Bent’s alleged victims to testify prior to trial. Get that to happen, and surely the judge would dismiss a case that would have unnecessarily consumed the court’s precious time and taxpayer money.
One problem: On Monday, the Honorable Judge Baca denied that motion.
If there is to be testimony given by the two girls whom the State has so forcefully argued were touched in a sexual way by Mr. Bent, then it’ll have to come during the church leader’s trial set to begin November 17.
The set-back for the defense is the latest in a series of rulings that have not gone Bent’s way.
Earlier this month, Bent ended his 100-day long “word fast” and embarked upon a food fast, vowing:
…and I will not eat or drink again until I eat and drink anew with those whom Father has given me, in my Father’s kingdom.
On his blog today, Bent writes that he’s been fasting for 12 days.
On October 7, Deputy District Attorney Tomas R. Benavidez filed a motion to have the original October 20 trial date rescheduled. In his Motion to Continue, Benavidez included seven grounds for postponing the trial. Ground number 3 contended that the State was overwhelmed by a heavy docket.
Grounds numbers 5 and 6 offered insights into how the State was putting together its case against the man who has long-led The Lord Our Righteousness Church (living with his Two Witnesses, Seven Virgins and assembled flock near Clayton, New Mexico):
5. The State is in the process of identifying (an) expert witness, a juvenile forensic psychologist.
6. The State is in the process of identifying a person who has either been published or is an acknowledged expert in the (area) of “Religious Followers”. We have been working with a Behavior Analysis Unit in Quantico, VA, who has been on travel for the FBI since the first of October. We had scheduled a conference with the agent and his team on Friday the 26th day of October, 2008.
On October 8, a Notice of Hearing (telephonic) informed attorneys on both sides that a Status Conference had been scheduled for Tuesday, October 28 at 10am.
On October 2, the State set-out to defeat two defense motions seemingly aimed at fracturing the prosecution’s grip on its two most important witnesses; the alleged victims.
In its response to the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss as to State’s Witness L.S., the State asked the judge to deny the motion for several reasons, including:
The Defendant has admitted in a statement taken by New Mexico State Police Agent Matthew Martinez, on August 2nd, 2008 and in his Grand Jury testimony that he did touch L.S. in his bedroom when they were unclothed.
L.S. disclosed in the safe room interview and in the requested interview with the Defendant’s Attorney that she was touched on her intimate part to wit, her “breast”, by the defendant.
The State’s response also addressed a possible “freedom of religion” argument from Bent’s side:
There is no constitutional or religious exception to Criminal Sexual Contact of a Minor or Contributing to the Delinquency of a minor.
And appearing a bit later in the same document:
It is well settled by case law that where religious practice clashes with criminal acts that there is no constitutional or other religious protection against such offender that should shield him from being criminally prosecuted for such a violation.
The language from the State—especially the assertions about what L.S. had reportedly told a State Police Agent and mentioned in a safe house interview—has apparently become all too familiar to Bent’s attorney, Sarah Montoya.
In the Emergency Motion for Evidentiary Hearing, ultimately denied by Judge Baca this week, Montoya had argued:
The Court should determine if there are real disputes or if the evidence, as framed by the taking of testimony from the state’s two material witnesses, can sustain a conviction. This is what Foulenfont (State v. Foulenfont) has to mean, that this Court can weigh conflicting facts, or every Foulenfont motion could be defeated by the state parroting what they perceive to be facts in dispute.
The prosection kept busy on October 2, attempting to fend-off motions filed by Bent’s attorney.
In its response to a defense request that L.S be appointed a Guardian Ad Litem, the prosecution enumerated 12 grounds for denying the motion. Ground number 10 addressed the familiar concern about religious protection:
A Defendant does not have the right to hide behind the religious protection of the United States Constitution when he is unclothed in the presence of a minor between the age of 13 to 18, when he is in a position of authority, he is unclothed in his bedroom and makes contact with his unclothed parts of his person and makes contact with the unclothed intimate part of the victim.
The final ground (number 12) for not appointing a Guardian Ad Litem, the State argued, noted that the child now lives with her “current guardians.” Her parents.
On October 14, Judge Baca denied Ms. Montoya’s request to have a Guardian Ad Litem appointed to L.S.
BOILING IT ALL DOWN
So, what can one surmise from this most recent flurry of motions filed in the Wayne Bent case? Clearly, religious freedom will be addressed. This post has already addressed some of what the State of New Mexico has argued concerning this topic.
Now, here’s an excerpt concerning religion written by Bent’s attorney in her Emergency Motion for Evidentiary Hearing:
It is significant that the Defendant and at least one of the witnesses have claimed all along that the meeting between the two individuals was for a religious healing and each of them should be afforded their 1st Amendment right under the Constitution of the United States of America to practice freedom of religion.
The space between the collarbone and a girl’s breast could be the difference between guilt or innocence for a New Mexico cult leader accused of sex crimes.
A catchy lead with an explanation that unfolded in the final paragraphs of the story:
The girls initially said that they were naked while Bent kissed them, according to State Police documents. One of the girls said he touched and kissed her breasts.
But Montoya said Monday that both girls have since denied that the encounters were anything illegal. She said the girl told her in an interview that the kissing happened near her clavicle and not on her breast.
“This has been blown out of proportion by the media and the District Attorney’s Office,” Montoya said.
More than anything, this case seems to come down to what two girls will—or won’t—say if called to the stand. And, at this point, it seems quite likely that they will be called to testify.
Now, talk about your Two Witnesses.