Jurors get sect leader's molestation case

KOB News, New Mexico/December 12, 2008

A Taos jury will go home for the weekend without reaching a verdict in the case of a religious leader accused of molesting two girls.

Wayne Bent, the leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church and a self proclaimed Messiah, is charged with kissing and touching two sisters who lay naked with him.

The case went to jurors Friday morning. After five hours of deliberation, a verdict hadn't been reached and the group was sent home for the weekend.

State District Judge Gerald Baca cautioned jurors not to discuss the case with anyone or watch or listen to coverage of it.

Bent denies the separate incidents were sexual in nature. He says they were religious healing episodes.

Bent's attorney, during closing arguments Friday morning, argued that the father of the 14- and 16-year-old girls remains friendly with Bent.

"Common sense tells us the father of the two girls is not going to be friends with someone if he believes that his children were sexually molested," argued Sarah Montoya.

"We're not saying that his (Bent's) beliefs are wrong," said prosecutor Emilio Chavez. "We're holding it neutral under the law and treating this event the same as (we would for) everybody else."

Bent at one point had to remove his glasses and wipe away tears as jurors were shown a video of the sect's Strong City compound north of Clayton.

If convicted of the two counts of sexual contact with minors, Bent could face up to 33 years in prison.

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