Defense cross and prosecution re-direct - Dr. Melton

Michael Travesser / Wayne Bent at sunset

Defense Cross examination and prosecution re-direct - expert, Dr. Melton

Judge Baca: Ok. Thank you. Ms. Montoya, cross-examination?

Ms. Montoya: In addition to your other publications, Dr. Melton, did you also author the Encyclopedia of Vampires?

Dr. Melton: I did.

Ms. Montoya: What other works have you done with regard to vampires?

Dr. Melton: I guess I should point out to you that vampires are a hobby of mine, have been since my teen years. I’ve done three scholarly books on vampires, two bibliographic works and am currently working with a colleague of mine to finish up a comprehensive bibliography of works on Dracula.

Ms. Montoya: Ok. And are you qualified to form legal opinions?

Dr. Melton: No.

Ms. Montoya: And you said your intense study of this group began three weeks ago correct?

Dr. Melton: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: Did you ever personally travel out to the land or personally ask questions of any of the individuals who live at the land?

Dr. Melton: No. I haven’t been able to do that.

Ms. Montoya: And you said, and you’re going to have to excuse me, because you called it, Masonic...

Dr. Melton: Messianic.

Ms. Montoya: Messianic something, you have used two words.

Dr. Melton: Millennial.

Ms. Montoya: Ok. And you said they would believe the significant changes in the order of things will occur.

Dr. Melton: In the near future.

Ms. Montoya: So tell me, have significant changes in the order of things occurred lately?

Dr. Melton: No. I think that’s one of the problems that the group currently has internally.

Ms. Montoya: Well, Dr. Melton, we now have an African American, who’s gonna be President and they used to be slaves in this country. Isn’t that a significant change in the order of things?

Dr. Melton: Well, every week there’s a new event on the front page of the news paper. Yes, someone who got his start in Birmingham, Alabama in the nineteen sixties, to go from trying to figure out who Martin Luther King was to Barack Obama is a very significant change. To have the largest recession since the Great Depression hitting us right now, that’s a large change. Nine eleven was a large change. World War Two was a large change. We live in a time of significant change. The change has not affected the... has not been the kind of total disruption of the social order that millennial groups expect, however.

Ms. Montoya: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the last part.

Dr. Melton: The kind of change that, say, a Barack Obama becoming president, is not the kind of significant change that a millennial group is talking about. Same structure is still there. He didn’t become you know a dictator or something. He’s the President of the United States.

Ms. Montoya: Well, he’s not a dictator yet.

Judge Baca: Alright. Let me ask you to let him finish his question.

Ms. Montoya: I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Dr. Melton: You know, he’s the fortieth something President of the United States, same as the forty who preceded him. So, I mean, you know it’s the recession that we’re in, it’s the same recession kinda thing we have every twenty years. That’s one of the problems of Capitalist society. So, you know we'll be out of the recession in another year and back to where we have been before. That’s the kind of the process that we go through.

Ms. Montoya: And you stated that you are of the opinion that Wayne Bent is a person of great authority within the group at Strong City.

Dr. Melton: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: Were you aware of the New Government?

Dr. Melton: Ah... I have become aware of it. This is one of the posts, October two thousand seven developments within the group.

Ms. Montoya: You also said that early Christianity, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. And I don’t mean to put Jesus on trial again here, but was he the Messiah?

Dr. Melton: I think so.

Tomas Benevidez: Your Honor. Objection. May we approach?

Judge Baca: Let me (unintelligible word) Objection. You may approach.


Ms. Montoya: Dr. Melton, was Jesus Christ a self proclaimed Messiah?

Dr. Melton: Yes, he was.

Ms. Montoya: Is Billy Graham a charismatic leader?

Dr. Melton: He’s a charismatic leader in the tertiary sense of that word, that he is a dynamic person with a magnetic personality and a great oratorical skill who draws people to him. He is not a charismatic leader in the sense we used the term earlier. He was, like me, went to school, ordained in the Southern Baptist Convention, has retained his Southern Baptist credentials. And is simply another Southern Baptist preacher, although an outstanding one.

Ms. Montoya: Ok, but let’s not confuse the jury. You’re not a Southern Baptist minister. You’re a Methodist minister.

Dr. Melton: I’m a United Methodist, yes.

Ms. Montoya: And so, were you not informed that Wayne Bent also went to Divinity School and was an ordained minister within the Seventh Day Adventist Church?

Dr. Melton: Yes, but he was not educated and ordained to lead another church, the church, Lord Our Righteousness. It was in two thousand that he became the charismatic leader of the church, Lord Our Righteousness. It’s not part of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. So his earlier credentials, Jesus was ordained as a Rabbi, before he became the leader of what became the Christian movement. So he had credentials otherwise, that are not really relevant to his Messianic role.

Ms. Montoya: Same as Wayne Bent.

Dr. Melton: Yes, his Seventh Day Adventist training is not really relevant to his Messianic role.

Ms. Montoya: And you said he was essential to the founding of the group. Were you aware that there were several ministers that moved away from the Seventh Day Adventist group and formed this new group?

Dr. Melton: I was.

Ms. Montoya: So, there were other people who were.

Dr. Melton: As I understand it, there were about sixty people there at the founding, but the essential event of the founding was Wayne Bent’s acceptance of this new role as Michael and the declaration of himself as Messiah, and the forming of the group into a communal organization.

Ms. Montoya: You referred to the veneration of Mr. Bent as though that were a bad thing. Is it a bad thing?

Dr. Melton: No, no, it just is.

Ms. Montoya: What is your definition of Messiah?

Dr. Melton: Messiah is, in its weaker sense, is someone who comes to assist people to acquire their salvation. In the stronger sense of the term, it’s someone who actually is the catalyst for people becoming, for people reaching their salvation. So, it has a range of meanings, but somewhere in those two, within that spectrum.

Ms. Montoya: And you testified about things that the group may have in common such as diet, dress, and haircuts.

Dr. Melton: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: There are several members of the group here today. Do they all have the similar hair cut?

Dr. Melton: Yep, pretty much, you gotta, most of them. Most of the men have hair on their face, which if you look here most of the men don’t. Some do some don’t. But, almost all of them have hair on their face. And the women, very much... tendency to long straight hair, uncurled, with few exceptions.

Ms. Montoya: And what does it mean for you to have hair on your face?

Dr. Melton: You really want to know?

Judge Baca: I’m not going to allow that question. You can move on.

Ms. Montoya: Ok. You said the story the group tells is one from Daniel and Revelations.

Dr. Melton: Right.

Ms. Montoya: So what’s the.... entirety of the group telling the story is it not?

Dr. Melton: It’s... no, the story was told by Mr. Bent in his writings and the group, then took those writings, discussed them and accepted them. And so Mr. Bent is the one who told the story, who originally received the revelations concerning the importance of Luther’s nailing of the ninety five thesis to the church door in fifteen seventeen, and the role of the seven year period from two thousand to two thousand seven. He’s the one who pointed out and emphasized the role of the two witnesses. He’s the one who pointed out and emphasized the role of the seven virgins. The significant points, he’s been the one who has projected the important events in the story and has been the one to interpret them.

Ms. Montoya: (unintelligible word) about the nailing of this document on the church door.

Dr. Melton: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: What are you referring to?

Dr. Melton: The beginning of the timed period that the church, The Lord Our Righteousness lives in is a period that began with the prophecy in Daniel about seven hundred ninety years. When one projects back, that takes one to Halloween of fifteen seventeen. Martin Luther, young Roman Catholic monk, nails ninety five debating points onto the church door in a long document, the church at Wittenberg, Germany. This event begins the Protestant Reformation. And out of this comes the Lutheran Church and the Reform Church, that’s the more important one. From the Reform Church comes the Baptists, from the Baptists comes the Adventists, from the Adventists become the Seventh Day Adventists. So it’s that history that’s being recapitulated. And this brings us down to the year two thousand... the last seven years of that four hundred and ninety years, that intense prophetic period that came to an end on Halloween of last year.

Ms. Montoya: You also spoke about serial monogamy, which is typical in this country. Did you mean the United States of America?

Dr. Melton: This country, western societies, serial monogamy is the primary way we live.

Ms. Montoya: And, just in case the jury doesn’t know what that is, what is serial monogamy?

Dr. Melton: One spouse at a time, but you can divorce for whatever reason the break a relationship with one spouse you divorce and can marry another. So in our lifetime we tend to have two or more spouses but one at a time. That’s serial monogamy.

Ms. Montoya: And you spoke about this church as the Bride of Christ, that they consider themselves the Bride of Christ?

Dr. Melton: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: Were you aware that the Catholic Church also sees its members as the Bride of Christ?

Dr. Melton: Oh, the imagery that they’re using is quite common, Christian imagery, which they are taking symbols and words and language from the Bible that all Christians share in common and pouring new meaning into it.

Ms. Montoya: And Dr. Melton, you testified, the Prosecutor asked you about, how many times you testified for the Prosecution and how many times you testified for the Defense and you testified on behalf of a group called The Local Church in a law suit, correct?

Dr. Melton: I’ve actually I’ve testified in one case...

Tomas Benevidez: Objection, your Honor. I don’t know what relevance this is.

Judge Baca: Alright, what’s the relevance?

Ms. Montoya: It draws analogy to this church’s (unintelligible word) ...

Judge Baca: Alright. I’ll allow you to ask a few questions to establish the relevance and then we’ll see where we go from there.

Ms. Montoya: In your expert testimony, during that law suit, did you testify that when you are investigating groups such as this, you never rely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members? Hostile ex-members invariably shade the truth.

Dr. Melton: That’s part of what I testified to, yes.

Ms. Montoya: And do ex-members shade the truth in your experience?

Dr. Melton: In the same way that members do, yes. It’s the case, that quotation, that half quote... one of two or three times, when I’ve had quotes picked up, repeated and circulated that were just half of what I said. I had pointed out that hostile ex-members and members of the group tend to shade the truth much the same way. Members of groups tend to tell you all the great things about the group and to forget the bad things. Hostile ex-members of the group tend to tell you all the bad things about the group and forget the good things. And so you need both of them. And then I went on to say that non-hostile ex-members are probably the best source of information about a group, because they don’t have an axe to grind either way.

Ms. Montoya: Didn’t you compare horror stories from hostile former cult members. Did you say it was like trying to get a picture of marriage from someone who’s gone through a bad divorce?

Tomas Benevidez: Your Honor, may we approach?

Judge Baca: Alright. You may approach.


Ms. Montoya: I’m sorry, Dr. Melton, I’m afraid maybe you didn’t hear the rest of that question. Were you not the person who compared, you’re saying that giving too much credence to the horror stories of hostile former cult members is like trying to get a picture of marriage from someone who has gone through a bad divorce.

Dr. Melton: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: And that’s much like what it is. It’s came to a divorce, is it not?

Dr. Melton: Very much so.

Ms. Montoya: Do you still stand by these statements?

Dr. Melton: Well, in context of everything else, yes. I also I’m afraid I’m confused at this point. I don’t understand the relevance to this situation, since I haven’t relied on upon any hostile ex-members to shape my opinion of the group.

Ms. Montoya: No, but the jury has heard from ex-members and for that reason we wanted to get your expert testimony...

Judge Baca: I’m going to object. I’m not going to allow you to comment on the evidence, why certain evidence has been introduced and other has not.

Ms. Montoya: Oh, I’m sorry.

Judge Baca: Alright. Next question.

Ms. Montoya: I have nothing further your Honor.

Judge Baca: Alright. Re-direct.

Tomas Benevidez: Dr. Melton.

Dr. Melton: Yes.

Tomas Benevidez: Ms. Montoya asked you questions regarding your Encyclopedia of Vampires. Do you believe in vampires?

Dr. Melton: (Chuckles) I believe in discussion of them was very lucrative at times. No...

Tomas Benevidez: Say that statement again.

Dr. Melton: I said I believed that discussion of vampires can be very lucrative at times. My vampire book actually is the bestselling book I ever wrote. No, I have no belief in vampires.

Tomas Benevidez: Why did you decide to write about vampires?

Dr. Melton: It’s a complicated story. I’ve been interested in them as a hobby all my life. As the Director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, our main source of income was work we did for a company called Gale Research. And Gale Research, the company, asked me to do this encyclopedia out of their knowledge of my interest in the subject. I agreed to it up until, oh fifteen years ago. You could pretty much write anything you wanted to about vampires because, in fact they don’t exist. And so I wanted to write a book that would at least get the folklore and the history of belief in vampires straight. I think we succeeded in doing that.

Tomas Benevidez: The other thing that Ms. Montoya asked you was about groups having things in common. Over time is there more control exerted on a group because of... Can you explain that?

Dr. Melton: How groups evolved can go in one of several ways. One of the things that happens with groups is that they start out very informal and authority is... it functions in almost a family kind of way. The average family, for example, doesn’t write down who runs the family, but over time you develop more structure. The new government comes in. As you face issues...

Tomas Benevidez: Let me ask you a question about, we’re starting to get waylaid. The new government, was the new government in existence in two thousand six?

Dr. Melton: No. It wasn’t.

Tomas Benevidez: Ok, thank you. Go ahead and continue.

Dr. Melton: As groups develop and grow they always change. They either change or die. And as they face different issues they have to make decisions and so they make changes based upon the new situations they develop or they face and they develop new structures to deal with those changes in issues that they have to deal with. Some groups can become very authoritative. Other groups can become looser. But that usually takes a generation to work itself out. And this group is only seven, eight years old.

Tomas Benevidez: Thank you. And finally Ms. Montoya asked you if Jesus was a charismatic leader. Is Charles Manson a charismatic leader?

Dr. Melton: Charles Manson was... in his own way, yes, a charismatic leader.

Tomas Benevidez: Thank you.

Judge Baca: Alright. May this witness be excused?

Tomas Benevidez: Yes, your Honor.

Judge Baca: Is he subject to recall?

Tomas Benevidez: Your Honor, we may be calling for rebuttal.

Judge Baca: Alright.

Tomas Benevidez: At this point he’s dismissed from the State’s Case in Chief.

Judge Baca: Alright.

Ms. Montoya: He is listed on our witness list and he was properly served with subpoena to appear, so we would have him remain available. If he could give us contact information, I’m sure he’s carrying a cell phone. We don’t have that number.

Judge Baca: Alright. And he’ll leave his contact information with representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, so that he can be available. Alright. You are excused.

Judge Baca: The state may call its next witness.

Tomas Benevidez: Your honor, the state rests.

Judge Baca: The state rests?

(pause no response)

Judge Baca: Alright, ladies and gentlemen, that concludes the presentation of the evidence in state's case in chief. They have rested. They do not intend to present any more evidence.

The judge then excuses the jury for about fifteen minutes so that the defense can present a motion outside of the presence of the jury.

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