Sect Leader on Trial for Alleged Molestation Speaks to 'GMA'

Bent: Police Wanted to 'Invent' a Crime

ABC News/December 10, 2008

Wayne Bent calls himself the second coming of Christ but prosecutors allege that he's a sexual predator.

Flanked by nearly three dozen followers, Bent, the 67-year-old leader of an apocalyptic group called The Lord of Our Righteous Church, entered a New Mexico courthouse Tuesday to stand trial on two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor.

Bent allegedly had inappropriate sexual contact with two teenage sisters, one 14 and the other 16, according to prosecutors.

In an exclusive Oct. 20 interview with "Good Morning America," Bent said that inappropriate touching "just didn't happen."

"I'm not saying I had sex with girls and I call it religion. ... I never touched any sexual part ever," Bent said. "They were there for healing, not for sex. They didn't come to have me have sex with them."

Bent admitted he "laid next to" one of the girls who was naked and put his hand on her sternum.

"The way I handled it is I let her go in my bedroom and disrobe and lay on my bed naked," Bent said of one of the incidents. "Then I opened my bedroom door and went in and laid next to her."

But prosecutors said Tuesday that jurors would hear testimony that Bent kissed both girls on the lips.

Deputy District Attorney Tomas Benavidez said the younger girl does not think she was sexually abused and wants to go back to the church's compound, called Strong City, near the New Mexico-Colorado border where she could "be Wayne Bent's wife."

According to Sarah Montoya, Bent's attorney, the girl "considers herself married to God," not Bent.

Montoya said one of the girls will testify that "after he laid his hand on her, she did feel closer to God."

According to former church member Prudence Welch, part of Bent's teachings included stipulations that he was the only person allowed to have sex with church members.

"Pretty much all marriages were somewhat on hold or dissolved," Welch told "Good Morning America" in May. "And, yeah, they had sex. And he said it would only happen with two people."

In a Sept. 11, 2007, Web site post, Bent wrote that he had sex with three women, including his son's wife, at God's prompting. But Bent told "GMA" that God has "never asked [him] to" have sex with an underage person.

Bent claims police tried to manufacture crimes to get to him.

"They have been watching us for years," he said. "They didn't have anything to come after us with until they could up a case, invent a crime."

Bent's sect was the subject of a National Geographic Channel documentary detailing his doomsday preaching that claimed the world would come to an end in October 2007.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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