SANTA FE – Religious sect leader Wayne Bent, sentenced in 2008 to 10 years in prison for lying with two naked teenage girls in what Bent and his followers maintain was a spiritual healing rite, is out of prison.
Bent, 74, was released on supervised parole last week, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.
Bent – who was head of The Lord Our Righteousness Church, called himself a messiah and predicted the world would end in 2007 – and his followers lived in a compound in Union County in northeast New Mexico.
In November, state District Judge Abigail Aragon ordered Bent’s release by the end of 2015 for health reasons, with a stipulation that he have no involvement with children, undergo sex-offender treatment and register as a sex offender.
Prosecutors didn’t object, but his release was delayed until the state Probation and Parole Division could approve a parole plan. His case went before the Parole Board on Feb. 5. Details of the plan were not available Tuesday, but his son has said he will return to his church community’s property in Union County.
A statement dated Sunday, said to be Bent’s “last will and testimony,” has been posted on the waynebent.com site and proclaims his innocence, as Bent and his followers have done since the start of the case.
“Because I didn’t worship what the world and its nominal Christian churches worship, and furthermore, because I could not be made to, this offended ‘the beast,’ the self-proclaimed ruler of this world and self-proclaimed educator of our children, and caused it to target me as not being part of it,” says the statement, also described as a “final letter.”
Bent was convicted in 2008 on a count of second-degree criminal sexual contact with a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. His lawyer said recently that Bent was diagnosed a year ago with skin cancer that threatens his hearing.
Bent attorney John McCall told Judge Aragon at a hearing last month that Bent could lose his hearing if he wasn’t released to get an ear operation scheduled for early March at an Albuquerque hospital. After the hearing, Jeff Bent, Wayne Bent’s son, said the Corrections Department previously had canceled his father’s ear surgery “based on concerns” over cost.
Jeff Bent and McCall also called attention to statements by the sisters who in 2006, while 14 and 16 years old, were naked with Wayne Bent. They called for his release and said they didn’t feel molested. At his jury trial, Wayne Bent testified that he only touched the girls on the sternum, not their breasts, at his church’s Strong City compound near Clayton.
The recent online posting on the Wayne Bent site says he’s been persecuted.
Referring to those responsible for the charges against him, the “final letter” says, “My greatest offense in all the world was that I showed myself independent from them and my testimony was that I was led of God. For this they called me a ‘cult leader,’ but there is no ‘cult’ greater than theirs. Our church does not persecute those who are different, but they have persecuted us. The ‘free country’ myth has been exposed.”