Sarah Montoya Closing Argument -
May it please the Court. Counsel.
And I heard a great voice out of the temple say, saying to the seven angels, “Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.” This is here in the book of Revelations. Is that why we’re here? Why are we here? Are we really here because a church in the mountains did a reenactment of a bible passage from the book of Revelations? Or are we here because a man committed a crime? My new best friend Barbie, she says, "No." There was no crime. The State gets up and argues to you this is not about religion. And yet when Wayne Bent took the stand, all I did was ask him about the crimes. Did you do this? “No.” Did you do this? “No.” Did you do this? “No.” Did you do this? “No.” What did they get up and bring up? What about these seven virgins? Let’s attack his religion. Let’s bring in words that the jury will find offensive. Let’s offend their sensibility and make this man look odd. Let’s make him look weird. Let’s make him look like a pervert. The State wants to tell you that it’s not about religion, but it is.
First and foremost I want to thank you for coming and serving. It’s very difficult to find people that we think will be fair and impartial. I know it’s not a lot of fun to be here. You’re giving up your regular lives. It’s not fun for me to be here. I have things to do. I have a ten year old who’s waiting for Christmas. Spending a week in Taos was not in my plans for Christmas two thousand and eight. But as much as we may not want to be here, Wayne Bent doesn’t want to be here either. Our system of justice is what it is. And as much as we complain about it, it’s not perfect. But as we’ve seen, when Americans get caught in other countries, it’s a good system compared to what we see elsewhere. This system requires that we put the decision in your hands. You are the triers of fact.
One of the tenets of our legal system is that a man is presumed innocent. He’s presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We live in a society of political correctness, so what someone, who’s different or doesn’t talk the right politically correct way, we label them as wrong. We have to use the words, "African American." We can’t say, "dumb blond." We can say she took a detour off the information highway, but we can’t say she’s a dumb blond. And instead of calling me a "nag," I guess you could say I’m a verbally repetitive. Because I’m going to keep repeating and repeating and repeating the same themes. I’ve been accused in this case of beating a dead h horse, but when we see a case that is so wholly unfair, I’m going to continue to beat that horse.
Recently there was a reality show with Paris Hilton choosing her new BFF.
(Ms. Montoya holds up Barbie doll)
This is my new BFF. Let me tell you why. Because the State has to prove criminal sexual contact. He would have had to touch intimate parts of the body. And both girls got on the stand and I said, “Did he touch you, anywhere on your body?” There was no where that would be seen, that would have been covered by the bikini. And the girls said, "No." The only intimate sexual part that the State was alleging that Wayne Bent touched is the breast. And they want you to think this is the breast. Common sense tells you if you are seeking sexual arousal of gratification, it’s not what you’re going to be grabbing. It’s not what you’re going to be grabbing. Think about it. When someone goes for a mammogram, what part is put into that machine? It’s not the protruding part of the woman’s anatomy. Even if the mound comes up higher on some than others, touching... here, is not the breast that is considered the intimate sexual part. And if you were seeking sexual arousal or gratification and you had a girl in front of you that’s completely naked are you going to touch her here?
They keep saying he’s this person of great authority. He had authority. He coerced them. He groomed them, to get them to take their clothes off... as though taking their clothes off, in of itself, is a delinquent unlawful act. There’s no law about taking your clothes off, unless you’re doing it on Main Street or the Plaza. That’s a whole different thing. And we’re not talking about that.
Let’s see what the State gave you. The State recalled has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is what they brought you. They brought you officer David Romero. What did he do? He provided some transportation and safeway interviews took a (unintelligble) from (unintelligble) cars. How does that prove criminal sexual contact of a minor? It doesn’t. How does that prove contributing to the delinquency of a minor? It doesn’t.
Next we have Kat Duff. She did a safe room interview. And even when the State had her testify they asked her, “Are you an investigator?” “No.” So I got up and asked her again, “Is it your job to investigate?” “No.” So how does that prove criminal sexual contact? It doesn’t. How does that prove contributing to the delinquency of a minor? It doesn’t.
Then we have agent Martinez who interviewed Wayne Bent. And what did Wayne Bent tell him? He denied criminal sexual contact. So how does that prove it occurred? It doesn’t.
Next we have Elsa and John Sayer. They moved to the land, they moved off the land, they took the girls, they left the girls. There were so many time prints in there it’s hard to tell what was going on. But at the time, that he is accused of having molested their daughters they weren’t even on the land. And then they found out about it and they brought the girls back to the land. I don’t know if they brought them both, but we know Healed came back. So if he was doing something contrary to her welfare, why would a parent say, "Here you go." So how does it prove criminal sexual contact, or contributing to the delinquency of a minor, if the parents of the girls say, "They’re safe enough there to return them and let them live there without me?" And when I asked John Sayer, “Well, who did they live with? Who was watching them?” And who did he say, “Well, they were pretty much on their own.” If there was a real concern, would they be there? No. How does that prove criminal sexual contact or contributing to the delinquency of a minor? It doesn’t.
Then we have the girls themselves who testified, Healed and A.S. And what did they tell us? "He didn’t touch me in those places. It didn’t happen." Two very different temperaments, one wants to go home to where she considers home with her family. The other one’s angry. Two different temperaments, two different people, two different individuals. Does this sound like somebody is exerting force on them to lose their individuality? If ever there was an example that they haven’t, it’s the two girls.
Then we have Dr. Dinsmore, who testified, "He may possibly have been grooming," maybe possibly. That’s as strong as it got. How does that prove criminal sexual contact? How does that prove contributing to the delinquency of a minor? It doesn’t. The last witness they gave you Dr. Melton, religious expert. And the sole purpose of his testimony really was to say, "He’s the alpha male, he’s in charge. He runs everything." Has he been there? No. What is one of the things he’s most famous for? Creating a dictionary about vampires so the words won’t be misused when people discuss vampires. How does that prove criminal sexual contact of a minor? It doesn’t. How does it prove contributing to the delinquency of a minor? It doesn’t.
So if you’re starting to get the message that I’m a bit of a nag, I am. Because that’s all the State gave you. No evidence. People talking, some people angry, some people not angry. Elsa Sayer said, "I don’t believe in him anymore." And the States own expert said, and I’m paraphrasing, "Former members, talking to former church members is like talking to the wife about her husband after a bad divorce." That’s common sense. We can see that that would be true. And John Sayer said, "I was upset because he went behind my back." Well, how are they going to do it in front of him, if he’s not even around? "I’m upset with Wayne and the girls, because they went behind my back."
The State will argue that, "Putting your hand here, when you make the Pledge of Allegiance, well you know part of his hand was touching the fleshy part of her breast. And there’s no way you can touch the sternum on a woman without touching her breast." Well, there is a photograph submitted into evidence that Wayne Bent touching a woman. And he did it right here. And that was unpracticed. It’s something he just does with everyone. It wasn’t staged.
So the State's own primary witnesses, Healed and A.S. told us, "No crime occurred." And the State wants to sell you on the idea that the act of allowing them in his house, in and of itself, is a crime and contributed to the delinquency. If ever there were children that were not delinquent, it is the children who were raised on the land.
We had witnesses for the defense. We had Dr. Seigal, who said, "Uh... this doesn’t ring true, ( tapping sound. Perhaps showing the report of Dr. Dinsmore) because, if you were a sexual predator, he’d have started in his twenties, not age sixty-five." So, "Grooming did not occur." So we have this saying, "Well her reports are correct, she just didn’t have enough information." Nobody is calling anyone a liar here or saying that they were mistaken, they’re saying, "She didn’t have enough information." Her information was that, "Wayne was this tyrant who treated people badly." So this guy and this gal here, cross each other out.
Then we had Gabriel Travesser saying, "He’s not a tyrant. He’s not the alpha male, if anything he’s a skinny weak little old guy." Charismatic? "Not really. That’s not what attracted me to him. I was attracted to charismatic speakers, but then I saw him and there was something about him. It wasn’t his intellect, it wasn’t his personality. It’s because something in here called me." So, he’s not charismatic and he’s not the alpha male and these two cross each other out.
So then we had Allaso Travesser who said, "I experienced that." And the State wants you to believe, "Oh, he was a man and he had his clothes on. Because he didn’t get in bed, the experience doesn’t count." The very idea that all the people have to be naked young females goes completely against what the State’s trying to sell you. The point here is that they weren’t all naked young females. That’s the whole point. And what did he say, "Michael kissed me." Was it sexual? "No!" No. In fact, Michael kissed Gabriel. Was it sexual? What do you say? "Oh No! (word not clear, sounds like, Undecidedly ) heterosexual." That’s not, it was not sexual.
And then we have Dr. O’Leary, who explained some history and that really in these offbeat religious groups, it’s not out of the question that these sorts of things happen. And it doesn’t mean it’s sexual. It doesn’t mean it’s sexual. So, you know, done with him. Done with him.
Who’s left? We’ve got Wayne Bent. We’ve got the two girls. And you know what? Those are the only people that matter. Those are the only people that matter. And let me tell you why, because they were the only people in the room. And for him to have violated their bodily integrity, he would have had to touch those intimate sexual parts. It didn’t happen.
Going back to the parents. What did each of them testify to? "I don’t hate him." In fact John Sayer said, "I consider him my friend and I think he still likes me." If you believed, if you believed that someone had inappropriately touched your daughters, would you care if they were your friend? You wouldn’t care if they were your friend. And you wouldn’t want them as a friend. Common sense. I agree with the State, common sense has to take over here. Common sense tells us the father of two young girls is not going to be friends with someone, if he believes that his children were sexually molested, that criminal sexual contact took place. It doesn’t ring true. It doesn’t even make sense.
So where does that leave us? As the triers of fact, you have to view the witness testimony. You have to decide. Is it credible? That’s what common sense kicks in. Takes over. So my job is to try to point these things out to you and try to sort out the truth.
You are going to be instructed on each of the elements. You’ve been instructed on the elements of the crime. And I disagree with what the State is trying to sell you. Because what the Judge said is, "The law is as I will tell you in these instructions." And what did he tell you? "For the act to have been unlawful, it must have been done with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desires." What gratification was found here? If you’re looking to arouse, you’re not going to do this to a naked girl. That’s not what you’re going to be touching. Common sense.
And then Emilio Chavez talked about slapping Tomas Benevidez upside the head, and it’s still a battery, even if it’s to knock the devil out of him. Well, the point is, it would be a battery, if none of it had ever been talked about, if it wasn’t a group relying on it. Is it a battery in the Jewish religion to have circumcision? Is that a battery? Are they touching the intimate sexual parts of an individual? Is it ok, if the religions big and widely accepted? Is that ok? But, because it’s an off the wall, offbeat group, small group...
Emilio Chavez: (to the judge) May we both approach?
Judge Baca: Alright. Counsel may approach.
Sidebar held here (jury cannot hear sidebar, but the microphone picked it up).
Emilio Chavez: She's going for jury nullification. There's no grounds to compare this to any religion. It's just adding confusion to the jury. She can't go on to describe what's allowed in the Jewish religion and ask them to make a determination cause circumcision is allowed, that this should be allowed in this religion.
Ms Montoya: Your honor, they are trying to sell to the jury that criminal sexual contact took place, because he touched the chest. Other touchings take place in other religions. This man is inno... being persecuted because of his religion. They say that it's not religion, but it is.
Judge Baca: There's no evidence to support that there was ever a touching of the breast. Your client has denied adamantly on the stand that he did not touch the breast. And so the question is really, "Did he or did he not touch the breast?" And not whether it is part of a religious practice. So the objection is sustained.
Nothing in the foregoing sidebar was heard by the jury.
Ms Montoya: The State wants to find a crime here. So what does L.S. say in her own letters? In her own letters that have been admitted into evidence (several words unintelligible). She says, "No." No." and "No. None of those things occurred ever." Emphasis by Healed. "I have testified over and over again that they haven’t. Michael never molested me or touched me sexually in any way, nor did he use authority to coerce me. Why can’t you hypocrites believe me? I have stated over and over and over again that I am safe, secure, and very happy in Strong City, unlike your world, where I have experienced much pain, sadness, loneliness and heartache. I have also made it very clear that Michael has not sexual abused or touched me in any way. So why do you hypocrites not believe me? I am nearly seventeen. I know what I am talking about and what has occurred." And her own testimony is, "I know the difference between good touch and bad touch." She’s been there before and she knows the difference. "Your world is what is unsafe, murders, rapes, molestations, adultery, minors getting pregnant out of wedlock, and some of them have had their babies killed, which is called abortion. And it is lawful for them to have their babies killed in that way. All these things happen in your world every day, but have never occurred in Strong City. And you want me in your world? Hello … is anyone home? You are absolutely out of your mind and have gone mad to take me out of a place where none of those things exist and stick me in your world cult where those things thrive. I haven’t told you what you wanted to hear, so you trample on the truth and want me to tell you a lie. But because I won’t lie to you, you have twisted what I have said to make it say what you wanted it to say. You just picked up the parts of my testimony that satisfies your purpose but omit the rest. You are so gross and evil hearted. I am disgusted with what you have done. You have perverted justice and it sticks to high heaven."
This is a little girl that they’re putting down for having home schooling, claiming that Wayne Bent prevented an education. She wrote these. These are articulate,intelligently put together letters.
"What happen to freedom of religion? Why can’t I, another human being just like you, be free to do as the God of Heaven is leading me?" She believes. She believes with everything that’s in her. She believes in God and has that security in her life, that comfort and that security. We should be so lucky to have faith that’s that deep and that strong.
Then in the October twenty-seventh letter, to Tomas Benevidez. "It is against my conscience and religious beliefs to go against what my Father has told me to do. But you passed it off and did not care that it was against my conscience. You only care about your own agenda." This little girl was tortured. She was tortured, but she is not tortured from the pain of being sexually touched by Wayne Bent. She’s been tortured, because she can’t go home. Her heart is broken. "You say you’re legally bound to present the evidence. What evidence? That you’re lying about my relationship with Michael and have broken my trust in you? Your intentions aren’t doing anything but hurting me. No, you are not trying to protect me from a sexual pervert as you want it to appear." She knows the difference. She knows good touch and bad touch and if this was bad touch, she wouldn’t be begging to go home. You saw her face when she saw a picture. She hasn’t been there. She saw apicture she said, "Home," the home she longs for that she’s being prevented from going to. And you’ll have these letters to read.
And I know it’s offensive. It sounds offensive that a little girl would walk into someone’s house and take their clothes off, especially when there’s no relation. It sounds offensive to you and I. I have a ten year old daughter, I wouldn’t let her do it. But we weren’t living there. It’s different from what you and I know. It’s different from how you and I live. But the faith, the absolute faith that they have in God and be married to God. If it were a small child running naked in front of their grandfather, would that be offensive? Because these girls grew up around this man. He’s known them all their lives, all their lives.
These people left our normal behind. Why? Picture it. Think about what you go through every day. Getting up, getting ready, rushing, let’s get to work. If you have kids, kids got to go to the doctor, kids gotta go here, kids gotta go there, football practice, soccer practice. Is the uniform clean? Is there something for dinner? You work all day and you still have to go home and cook dinner and you still have to get your kids to their practices and you have to run here and run there and then they come home and say, "Oh, I forgot, I need cupcakes for school tomorrow," and you’re throwing up your hands. How many stresses do we live with day to day? Think about it. And think about their lifestyle, a beautiful place in the mountains where they walk, they commune with God, and that’s all they really want to do.
Imagine when you wake up in the fresh air every day. Can you imagine how she misses being there? No one’s pressuring you to do anything, least of all Wayne Bent. And just because it’s very, very different from what you and I might do every day doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It’s just different. And you know people with different religious practices have been persecuted throughout history. Wars have been fought over religion... over religion.
And I really need you to listen to me, because I only get to talk to you once. And when I go and sit down the prosecution gets to stand up and shoot down everything I’ve told you. Several words unintelligible here because they have to prove, they have to prove their case. And I’m telling you, with what they’ve presented and the people they’ve presented, they didn’t do it.
The State also says, "Well you know, it doesn’t have to be for sexual gratification. Then it has to be, because it was against her moral good and welfare. So it could be either, or." Well, I think it is pretty clear, it’s not sexual gratification. So is to inhibit her morals? When all they’re saying is, "Go talk to God. Listen to your heart." Has anyone said , "Wayne Bent said, 'Listen to me and do what I say?'" The only one that said that really was A.S. And she’s an ex-member.
There was a poem called “Don’t Let It Happen Here,” which was written after World War II, after Nazi Germany. It said, "One day they came and took the Communists and I said nothing, because I was not a Communist. Then one day they burnt the Catholic Churches and I said nothing, because I was born a Protestant. Then they came and took the Unionists and I said nothing, because I was not a Unionist. One day they came and took the people of the Jewish faith and I said nothing, because I had no faith left. Then one day, they came and took me and I could say nothing, because I was as guilty as they were for not speaking out and saying that we all have a right to freedom."
And what we are talking about here is the freedom to live in peace and harmony and just because it’s not like we live, just because it’s different, don’t condition because they’re different. Look at the elements. Did he touch you there? "No." Who knows the answer to that question? A.S. and Healed. There the only ones who know the answer to that question. And they said, "No." Just because someone is different doesn’t make them unintelligible.
And I’d like to go over the photographs that were submitted to you in evidence.
Judge Baca: There’s some members of the jury that can’t see. You may want to reposition the monitor.
They begin playing the 3 minute 10 second special trial Video. Sounds of the song, "A place for us" can be heard.
The following is the video played at this point of the trial. It was not included as part of the official transcripts, but included here for students of the case. It can also be found by clicking the "videos" tab at the top of this page.
Judge Baca: (After 51 seconds have elapsed) Please turn the video off. Turn the video off please. And turn the monitor off.
Sidebar about video. The objection was the sound.
The video resumes, without the sound playing, but, now with Ms. Montoya giving a narration.
Ms. Montoya: Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. We’re not allowed to make joyful noise. We’re going to be silent.
Someday they’re will be a place for everyone who’s different, who believes differently. There will be a time for those people, a time to laugh, a time to learn, a time together, a time to spare, a time to learn, a time to care, someday, somewhere, we’ll find a new way of living, we’ll find there’s a way of forgiving, somewhere. Somewhere there’s a place for us, a time and a place for us. Hold my hand and I’ll take you there, somehow, some way, some day.
And just because you’re different doesn’t make you (last word unintelligible).
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