Cult leader released, ordered to eat well

The Raton Range/November 25, 2008

Raton, New Mexico - The leader of a northeast New Mexico religious cult was released from jail Friday and ordered by a judge to eat well so he would be healthy for his trial next month.

District Judge Gerald Baca of Las Vegas, N.M., approved the release of Wayne Bent, but included in his order Thursday that Bent, 67, "maintain a balance(d) diet to maintain his health in be in good health at the time of trial." Bent is scheduled to face what is scheduled to be a week-long trial in Taos beginning Dec. 8. He is accused of criminal sexual contact with two of his female teen-age followers.

Bent was arrested late last month at The Lord Our Righteousness Church compound about 30 miles northeast of Des Moines in Union County after failing to show up for a court hearing. He had not been eating in the days prior to his arrest, he had said, and the cult's website - which has since been taken offline - said he was not going to eat or drink anything in the days following his arrest.

The judge's order of Thursday released Bent from the Northeastern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Clayton. The judge restricted Bent to staying in Union County except to visit his attorney, Sarah Montoya of Raton, in neighboring Colfax County. Bent must also remain on the cult's compound, known as Strong City, each night, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The order also requires Bent, who claims to be the "messiah" and is known to his followers as Michael Travesser, to attend all future hearings in his case. He has said in the past he does not intend to take part any further in the court proceedings.

Bent's trial was moved from Clayton to Taos after the judge agreed with defense attorney Montoya that a fair and impartial jury could not be found in Union or Colfax counties, the counties that join with Taos County in making up the Eighth Judicial District.

Bent was indicted by a Union County grand jury in May. He was indicted on two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. If convicted on all counts, Bent faces up to 33 years in prison.

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