Defense witness Dr. Stephen D. O’Leary, expert

Michael Travesser / Wayne Bent at sunset

Defense witness Dr. Stephen D. O’Leary - By Defense Attorney, Sara Montoya, Defense Attorney, cross by Emilio Chavez

Judge Baca: The next witness for the Defense.

Ms. Montoya: Your Honor, we would call Dr. Stephen O’Leary.

Judge Baca: Alright. Doctor, please approach.

Judge Baca swears in Dr. O’Leary.

Judge Baca: Alright. Have a seat. Please move close to the microphone and speak loudly.

Ms. Montoya: Would you please state your name for the record.

Dr. O’Leary: My name is Stephen Deacon O’Leary.

Ms. Montoya: Where are you from Mr. O’Leary?

Dr. O’Leary: I currently reside in Los Angeles.

Ms. Montoya: How are you employed?

Dr. O’Leary: I am Associate Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.

Ms. Montoya: What education do you have?

Dr. O’Leary: I have a Bachelors degree in the Comparative Study of Religion and History of Religion from Harvard University and a Masters and a PhD in Communication Studies for Northwestern University.

Ms. Montoya: Have you received any honors in conjunction with that education?

Dr. O’Leary: Uhm... Honors.. Uhm... I mean there are no honorific titles associated with the degree if that’s what you mean. I have received different professional honors at different points in my academic career, but with the degrees, not necessarily.

Ms. Montoya: Mr. O’Leary we’ve asked, asked you to speak slowly.

Dr. O’Leary: Yes.

Judge Baca: Thank you.

Dr. O’Leary: To answer the question, I’ve no specific honors associated with my degrees, but I have received various academic honors in the course of my career.

Ms. Montoya: Can you describe for us your professional career since acquiring your PhD?

Dr. O’Leary: Yeah, uhm... my work has to do with the intersection of religion and communication. I’d describe it as rhetoric of religion. Much, but not all of my work, has focused on the communication and persuasive strategies of religious individuals, movements, groups and institutions with a special focus on end time religious groups, apocalyptic theology.

Ms. Montoya: Are you ordained in any manner with regard to any church?

Dr. O’Leary: No, I am not.

Ms. Montoya: Are you an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church?

Dr. O’Leary: No, I am not.

Ms. Montoya: Have you ever been an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church?

Dr. O’Leary: I’ve never been ordained in any way.

Ms. Montoya: Ok. What is your teaching experience?

Dr. O’Leary: You mean what classes have I taught?

Ms. Montoya: Yes.

Dr. O’Leary: I teach a mixture of courses in public speaking, argumentation, communication ethics, and two courses relevant to the present case one is called Communicating Religion. It’s about religion and media and communication strategies of religious groups, the other one, a course on "Millennialism and Apocalyptic Religion," and its manifestations in both religion and popular culture.

Ms. Montoya: Have you ever been published?

Dr. O’Leary: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: Could you tell us about that publication?

Dr. O’Leary: I’ve published a number of articles in academic journals on these topics. But my claim to fame, such as it is, comes from a book published out of my doctoral dissertation, which is called, "Arguing the Apocalypse, a Theory of Millennial Rhetoric," published in nineteen ninety-four (1994,) by Oxford University Press.

Ms. Montoya: Have you ever lectured on the subject of religion?

Dr. O’Leary: Many times.

Ms. Montoya: Do you have any research specialties?

Dr. O’Leary: Yeah, my teaching, when I’m lucky, tends to intersect with my research, so my research has to do with, as I say, persuasion and communication strategies of religious individuals, movements, groups and institutions and with a special focus on apocalyptic end times religion.

Ms. Montoya: Can you say that again? Apocalyptic...

Dr. O’Leary: Apocalyptic or millennial or end times religion.

Ms. Montoya: And for how long have you been engaged in these types of activities and studies?

Dr. O’Leary: I wrote my undergraduate thesis in religion at Harvard on these topics. So, I guess it would have to be thirty years now.

Ms. Montoya: Do you have any works under review or in process for publication?

Dr. O’Leary: Currently, working on a couple of books on... One book, which has to do with Millennial Religious groups and another one, which has to do with, what I would call, the Ethics of Religious Communication or Religion, in so far as it intersects with ethical and social norms.

Ms. Montoya: Your Honor, we would move Dr. Stephen O’Leary in as an expert witness in Apocalyptic Religion and End time Religion.

Judge Baca: Any objection by the State?

Emilio Chavez: May we approach your Honor?

Judge Baca: Yes.

Sidebar - Sidebar discussions are not heard by the jury.

Emilio Chavez: The State doesn’t have any objection, but partly curious on the aspect of these people qualified in that. I believe some of the testimony that’s going to be elicited from Mr. O’Leary is that to do with the communication, persuasion aspects. So, I don’t know if that...(meets) the appropriate qualification as an expert. He’s obviously very qualified and so I don’t have that objection. But, if that’s what he’s qualified in; his testimony should be constrained to that qualification.

Ms. Montoya: Actually Your Honor, I’m going to have him testify for the history of religion, which his studies would qualify him to testify about, of religion as it relates to the incidents within this religion.

Judge Baca: (Out of hearing)

Ms. Montoya: That’s why I wrote it down to... That’s why I wrote it down. Well, that’s a... I can explain. Well, because this group has been called an apocalyptic group and has been classified as such. Their expert witness classified it as a messianic millennial group, which is a "New Age" religion, of which this gentleman is a specialty.

Judge Baca: (Out of hearing)

Ms. Montoya: We’ve got a point to make, yes sir.

Emilio Chavez: It’s interesting... as I do find it...

End of Sidebar

Judge Baca: Alright then. Dr. O’Leary will be accepted as an expert in Endtime Religions and those areas. You may proceed.

Ms. Montoya: Can you discuss with us the sexual mores of millennial apocalyptic groups?

Dr. O’Leary: Yes... when a group of individuals comes together with a united by a eminent expectation of faith in and hope for the coming Apocalypse and the return of Jesus, or we say in the study of millennialism, eminent and total transformation of the earthly order of things. When such an... When people come together with this kind of faith and hope and anticipation, they very often behave and act in ways that run counter to accepted social norms and they very often seek to redefine and rewrite codes of morality in so far as they touch on every type of sphere of social acts, including sexuality.

So, the history of these kinds of religious groups, shows many different experiments with unorthodox and sometimes even bizarre sexual arrangements, which are very strange to laypersons. I think, for an example, the Shakers, who practiced a rigorous absolute celibacy at the same time. The Mormon Church, which is now established and has officially rejected its former doctrines of polygamy, but in its early years was committed to polygamous marriage, which they saw as ordained by God.

So celibacy and polygamy are two extremes of different way of approaching sexual behavior and morality in marriage, which are characteristic of some of the ways that these groups can redefine sexual morality. But there are many other ways and you could call it a kind of experimenting with life. When you’re living an expectation of the eminent end and the coming of a divine judge to test all of our behavior and actions in the world, you often begin to live in anticipation of the Millennial Age or the Golden Age, which the Messiah will introduce. And so, because these groups are so much focused on their faith and their hope in the future that is to come, they often begin attempting to act out the social mores, the codes of conduct, which they expect to be characteristic of that coming Millennial Age.

Ms. Montoya: And does this religious group of which Mr. Bent is a member fit into that category?

Dr. O’Leary: Yes, I believe so. There are aspects of this group which seem puzzling and even incomprehensible to lay persons. And yet, I think that there is ample precedence and historical examples, which can be directly compared, and would show that there are many similar cases in the whole history of Christianity, even going back to Ancient times.

Ms. Montoya: You talked about how the sexual mores of these groups tend to differ from society at large. Generally speaking, are they then rejected by society at large?

Dr. O’Leary: Most often, yes. I think the clearest example of this is polygamy in the early Mormon Church, which aroused such violent opposition that Mormons, had to defend themselves with arms. They were subject to lynching and they were driven out of the various communities in which they settled. The Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, was lynched by an angry mob. And I think it’s safe to say that polygamy was the catalytic factor in arousing mob anger against the Mormons. But there are other kinds. I mean celibacy is every bit as offensive to a social order, which is based on marriage, appropriation and inheritance of property.

Ms. Montoya: And what about lying naked with one another without sexual contact? Is that what falls in the category of the celibacy area?

Dr. O’Leary: Yes. Ah... This is actually a very ancient Christian practice. And it has even analogies, or parallels, in other religious traditions as well. But in the history of Christianity, there was a consistent practice of lying in bed for religious ascetics... monks and priests lying in bed with women, but remaining chaste. And the technical term, the ancient Greek word for this, is "sinoisaktinism". My Greek pronunciation is a little weak. I don’t have Greek, so I have to say. But that refers to a practice of men lying in a chaste fashion with women in order to test their celibacy and demonstrate the dedication to the life of holiness. And the women who lived and slept with these early Christian ascetics were called, "subintroducti," that’s the Latin term and in Greek, "sineisaktoi."

Note from transcriber, for students of this case. Here is an excerpt from a paper (not shown at the trial), which describes what Dr. O'leary was discussing:

Ms. Montoya: So it’s not uncommon?

Dr. O’Leary: No. In fact, it has a long, a long history and it’s a controversial history. I mean, the fact that this was common is attested to by many many denunciations of the practice by Christian authorities. Christian Bishops for centuries issued condemnations of this practice, because they saw it as dangerous and possibly opening the way to scandal, even though it wasn’t only a question of people giving into sexual temptation. The argument was, even if you managed to lie together in this chaste fashion and not give into temptation, this causes a scandal for people outside the Christian community.

Ms. Montoya: So, it’s not unheard of throughout history within religions that these things occurred?

Dr. O’Leary: No. And I don’t know, some examples here... I’ve taken some notes about the practice. One early Christian woman is described by an ancient source as having, quoting now, "Slept with men without falling or falling away and remaining pure without sin from men." And I have a number of other examples like that.

Ms. Montoya: Were any of the individuals involved in these types of chaste relationships children?

Dr. O’Leary: Uhm... It’s hard to tell from the ancient sources. I... we.. they don’t always give ages of the people involved, but it is important to remember that this was a society and a culture, which gave young women, we would call them children, up in marriage even as earlier as the age of twelve or thirteen. So, ah, I don’t know, without any specific historical reference for this, I can’t say. But, it would probably have not been uncommon, given that women were thought to have achieved sufficient sexual maturity to be married, at such a young age, which we now think of as childhood.

Ms. Montoya: Are there any modern examples of religious leaders, older men lying with younger women?

Dr. O’Leary: Yeah. I think the most interesting modern parallel is outside of Christianity, the great ascetic and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi was consistent practitioner of this. And Hindus of this practice, was called, "brahmacharya," and it refers to the same exact thing. The yogi or the Hindu devotee would lie in bed with young women or girls naked and practice his form of celibacy, even to the point of upmost temptation and your Honor, I don’t know if this is permitted, I have a quotation here from Gandhi’s writings, which describes his defense of this practice, which this will be accepted as historical parallel, I’d like to read this. It may.. To me, it’s relevant, in that it shows that we have a spiritual leader, unimpeachable integrity, who engaged in practice which was controversial, for which he was attacked, but nevertheless, it is a direct parallel to the accusations against...

Note from transcriber, for students of this case. Here is an excerpt from a paper (not shown at the trial), which describes what Dr. O'leary was discussing:

Judge Baca: Let me see the writing.

Dr. O’Leary: Pardon?

Judge Baca: Let me see the writing.

Emilio Chavez: May we approach your Honor?

Judge Baca: Yes, come here.

Sidebar --- (Beginning of discussion out of hearing range)

Emilio Chavez: Your Honor, my concern with this, this testimony, that Dr. O’Leary is offering, can be confusing to the jury. They’re going through a number of examples of leaders that have done things that may violate the social morals, but here we’re looking at the law of New Mexico and what Mr. Bent said. I find this very interesting and I would love to talk with Dr. O’Leary, but it’s not relevant to this case and it can add to confusion for the jury.

Ms. Montoya: (Unable to hear her response)

Judge Baca: At this point I will not allow it.

End of side bar

Judge Baca: You may continue.

Ms. Montoya: As to Mahatma Gandhi.

Dr. O’Leary: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: Who did he lay with?

Dr. O’Leary: There was a communal living situation that he was in, towards the end of his life and he laid with, the historical record shows, the youngest women and girls in the commune, one of whom was his teenage grandniece.

Ms. Montoya: His teenage grandniece?

Dr. O’Leary: Yes.

Ms. Montoya: Was he criticized for that?

Dr. O’Leary: He was attacked in a very serious way by even some of his closest followers.

Ms. Montoya: So, there are hostile interpretations of these types of acts?

Dr. O’Leary: Absolutely. And my point on this, I believe this can be made without the quotations, really is that it’s very hard for us in the world that we live in, to look at an action like this and not interpret it as predatory or self seeking, self serving and done under cover of religion for purposes of sexual gratification. But in the history of Christianity and in Hinduism with the leaders such as Gandhi, I think the record shows that although some people may have give into sexual temptation, the record does show that many spiritual leaders were able to practice this without any sexual involvement at all. And that they were doing this to, not only to test their chastity and their holiness, but as a way of growing in the spiritual life, by putting themselves to that test.

Judge Baca: Let me see counsel at the bench.

Sidebar -- jury cannot hear sidebar discussions.

Ms. Montoya: That was my last question, so I’m done.

Most of this sidebar was out of the range of hearing for transcription. It involved Judge Baca offering concerns.

Emilio Chavez: Your Honor, concerning that’s an aspect, that this man cannot make that conclusion as far he’s relating religious aspects that may have some type of analogy, but again they’re confusing to the jury. I would ask at this point, unless Ms. Montoya does have some tie to this case, that his testimony be stricken.

Judge Baca: (Beginning of response cannot be heard.) I’ll give you a chance to tie it in, ok. But, if you can’t, then I’ll have to do that.

End of sidebar

Ms. Montoya: Dr. O’Leary, how does your testimony today with regard to the private religions tie into what’s occurring with Mr. Bent and his religion?

Dr. O’Leary: Well, I believe that just as the early Christian ascetics and just as Dr. Gandhi were attacked and subject to vicious slander, because of a practice which looks to outsiders like statutory rape or sexual predatory conduct, I think that Wayne Bent’s conduct with the minors in his church looks to outsiders like a practice that, from the point of view of the value system of the world that most of us operate in, seems like something shameful. And yet, from my reading of the evidence here, you know, it’s unlawful conduct has been alleged and truth of touching, but it seems to me that Mr. Bent has been extremely careful not to violate the sexual...

Judge Baca: I’m going to stop. He’s not allowed to testify in those areas. Do you have any other questions?

Ms. Montoya: No, your Honor.

Judge Baca: Alright.

Dr. O’Leary: I’m sorry, your Honor.

Judge Baca: You may cross examine.

Emilio Chavez: Good afternoon, doctor.

Dr. O’Leary: Hello.

Emilio Chavez: Do you know Mr. Bent?

Dr. O’Leary: I’ve never met him before, 'til I came out here for this trial.

Emilio Chavez: Ok. Have you had the opportunity to go and observe the practices at Strong City?

Dr. O’Leary: No, I have not.

Emilio Chavez: So, basically, you’re basing your opinion that you just gave to Ms. Montoya on your observations on the last couple days?

Dr. O’Leary: Yes. And reading the literature, which has been posted on the accounts of the life in the group and posted to the various websites.

Emilio Chavez: Ok. And you don’t hold any degrees in law?

Dr. O’Leary: No.

Emilio Chavez: How many times have you testified in trial?

Dr. O’Leary: Never.

Emilio Chavez: No, further questions.

Judge Baca: Any other questions?

Ms. Montoya: No, your Honor.

Judge Baca: The witness is excused. And he’s permanently excused?

Ms. Montoya: Yes, sir.

Judge Baca: Alright. You’re free to go. Thank you for your testimony. Does the Defense have other witnesses?

Ms. Montoya: No, your Honor. The Defense rests.

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