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2008

CNN

Sect's 'Messiah' arrested on sex charges
May 6, 2008

 

The leader of an apocalyptic New Mexico church who claims to be the Messiah was arrested Tuesday on sex charges, state police said.
 

Wayne Bent, who also goes by the name Michael Travesser, was arrested at the compound that is home to his Lord Our Righteousness Church, called Strong City by members. He was being interviewed, state police spokesman Peter Olson said.

 

The arrests come after three children were removed from the compound late last month.

 

A post on the group's Web site said Bent was arrested Tuesday morning.

"I was told by the agent in charge of the case that the arrest warrant specified charges of three counts of sexual contact with a minor, and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor," said the post, written by an unnamed follower. "The bail was set at half a million dollars."

 

The writer said sect members were questioned at a state police office in Clayton, New Mexico, and promised to update the site with "a more complete response to these false charges."

The Lord Our Righteousness Church was founded in 1987 by former Seventh-day Adventists, according to the group's Web site. "Since that time, many have joined who do not have their roots in Adventism."

 

Bent said on the Web site that God revealed to him in 2000 that he is the Messiah.

 

A post from Monday written by Bent said, "The current upheaval over me and the present contest is well under way. It was the same for Jesus. Jesus had not committed any crimes, so the authorities had to invent some crimes to crucify him over."It is the same for me also," Bent wrote. "I have committed no crimes, but many crimes are being imagined and concocted in the minds of men to try and kill me again. Men are so stupid, though, for they do not know that they cannot kill Spirit."

 

Last month, authorities removed two girls and a boy from the compound. The reasons for their removal are not publicly known, but the removals gained attention because they came after more than 400 children were removed from the Texas ranch of an offshoot Mormon sect that practices polygamy. Those children remain in state custody.

 

Bent has acknowledged having sex with his followers, but authorities will not divulge who the alleged victims are.

 

A former member of the Lord Our Righteousness Church, however, told CNN affiliate KOAT that he left because Bent wanted to sleep with his daughters. John Sayer said he split with the church after 16 years when Bent told him he was supposed to sleep with seven virgins -- and that two of them were to be Sayer's daughters, then 14 and 15 years old. He said he told Bent that it wasn't right and that he, his wife and his daughters left the compound. Sayer told KOAT that his youngest daughter later returned and was one of the three removed by authorities.

 

In posts on the group's Web site, Bent wrote that the three children were "abducted." "The state has made its move, and now God will make his," he said.

The Lord Our Righteousness Church is to be featured Wednesday on a National Geographic Channel program, "Inside the Cult." In a video clip of the show posted on the channel's Web site, Bent and some young female followers admit that the young women lay with him while naked but deny sex took place.

"It was God," Bent said in the video clip. "God came down on them and told them to do it."

 

A posting from a teenage girl on the compound Web site denied that she was molested, saying that her "lying with" Bent was not sexual. She was one of the three later removed.

Bent had predicted that the world would end October 31, 2007. A post to the site in March said, however: "Now we are in the time of 'the eighth day' -- Shemini Atzaret -- the day after the Feast of Tabernacles, when God said, 'Stay with me one more day.' Now we are in the time that Shemini Atzaret foreshadowed, and Father has been saying to us, 'Stay with me one more year.' ... It is the time of the 'last trump.' In the scriptures, it is 'that day' when the final judgment of man is carried out."

 

Also on the site is a message to the media, saying no interviews will be given.

 

"I know very well who the media represents," Bent wrote. "I have no illusions regarding a free press. The press is only an arm of the beast."

He continued, "I do not speak to, nor do I negotiate with terrorists, who are holding my children hostage. I will speak with the media when they let my children go, permanently." 

2011

religiouscultsinfo.com

Cult Leader Ordered Released From Prison

A New Mexico State Appeals court has ordered Wayne Bent, aka Michael Travesser, to be released from prison. In short, the court ruled that the term of the grand jury that indicted Mr. Bent had been extended and that was outside of State statute. Therefore the indictment was void and there were no grounds to prosecute and sentence Mr. Bent.    “Judge Rod Kennedy wrote the opinion for a unanimous three-judge panel, saying the grand jury’s term had expired but then was arbitrarily extended by the district court.“Legally speaking, there was no grand jury convened in this case. Therefore, there was no indictment under the law…” Kennedy wrote. He said the state was free to retry Bent if it chooses. From a news release found here: http://www.daily-times.com/ci_18378400 .

 The State Appeals court in their opinion refers to Bent’s beliefs about this practice, “Defendant, the apparent leader of a religious community in northeastern New Mexico, was charged with various crimes centering around what he maintained were religious practices intended to be cleansing ceremonies. The State argued that such practices amounted to criminal sexual contact of minors and contributing to the minor’s delinquency.”

2012

religionnewsblog.com
Court upholds cult leader’s sexual misconduct conviction
October 23, 2012

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday reinstated the convictions of religious cult leader Wayne Bent for sexual misconduct with teenage followers.

  • The decision reversed the Court of Appeals, which last year had overturned Bent’s convictions because the term of a grand jury had expired before it indicted Bent.
  • Bent, who also goes by the name of Michael Travesser, heads The Lord Our Righteousness Church. He claims God told him in 2000 that he is the Messiah.
     
  • His few dozen devotees live in a small plot of land near Clayton, New Mexico. The community is known as ‘Strong City’ — a name the media has sometimes used to refer to the group.
  • Theologically the group is a cult of Christianity. Sociologically the group has cult-like characteristics as well.
  • In December, 2008, a jury convicted Bent of the felonies for lying in bed with naked 14- and 16-year-old sisters in separate incidents in 2006. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, of which 8 years suspended.
  • During his trial Bent and the sisters testified the incidents were spiritual exercises and that nothing happened sexually. The teens said Bent did not touch intimate areas, and Bent testified he had placed his hands on the sternums, but not the breasts, of the girls.
  • The Associated Press reports that If Bent’s indictment was invalidated, the court said, a new grand jury would likely find there is probable cause to indict Bent again and he would face a new trial.