Cult Leader Appears In District Court

KOAT TV News, New Mexico/July 18, 2008

Raton, New Mexico - A district court judge formally charged him with four indictments handed down by a Union County grand jury in Clayton, N.M.

Both district court judges in Clayton were excused from the case. Judge Gerald Baca from Las Vegas has been appointed to handle Bent's proceedings.

The judge also considered whether Bent should be sent back to jail to await trial.

"Concerning this matter, the state would ask that the court impose that same bond that was issued in magistrate court," said prosecutor Emilio Chavez.

But prosecutors found it a tough argument to make.

"Ironically, the district attorney could have kept charges in magistrate court pending while they went to grand jury. They chose not to do that," said Bent's attorney, Sarah Montoya.

Montoya told the judge that Bent has been free among his followers for almost two months now.

"If he were going to flee, your honor, he would have done so long before the grand jury indictment came down," Montoya said.

Montoya argued Bent has been little trouble to anyone since he left the Clayton jail.

The state still has concern, though, that Bent has been communicating with his alleged victims and urged the judge to impose a no-contact order.

"[That] should be strictly enforced, your honor," said Chavez. "Again, that could constitute the technology they use -- whether that be e-mail or Internet contact."

On their own accord, Bent and his followers aren't speaking to most of the outside world.

They're calling it a "word fast" and said they won't communicate until the state returns two children it removed from the Strong City compound in April.

Bent did walk out of court freely but not free. He'll be back for trial and possibly judgment.

Ultimately, Baca decided Bent isn't likely to flee prosecution and does not warrant more time in jail.

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