Prosecution Opening

Michael Travesser / Wayne Bent at sunset

Tomas Benevidez Opening Statement

May it please the Court. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you may not remember me, because Mr. Gallegos was doing most of the talking during voir dire, but I’m Deputy District Attorney, Tomas Benevidez, and I’ll also being assisting in the prosecution of this case.

This case is a case that started with the defendant here, Wayne Bent. He’s also known by other names. They also call him Michael Travesser. So you may hear some of our witnesses not calling Mr. Bent, or Wayne, but Michael, or Mr. Travesser. So that you know that.

This is a case, where, basically, a religious leader in a community betrayed trust and abused his authority. "How did he do that?"... you ask yourselves. Mr. Bent did that by allowing two young women to come into his bedroom. One of them, you’ll hear, her name is L.S. She was a young woman, who was fourteen (14) years of age and you’ll hear testimony that the defendant wanted to have seven virgins pour out the seven plagues, who'll be messengers for the end of the world. And that these two young girls, L.S. and A.S., were both messengers or part of those virgins. And you’ll hear from them, through L.S., and I’ll go into explain that, after I tell you what the facts are in this case. And the evidence will show that L.S. was fourteen (14) years of age at the time. And she was allowed to go in the defendant’s bedroom. He was unclothed. She unclothed herself, and she laid down on his bed.

You’ll hear testimony that, and the evidence will show, that the defendant then laid his chest on her chest, chest to chest, skin to skin. L.S. doesn’t consider herself to have been sexually abused. In fact, she loves Wayne Bent. She believes that Wayne Bent is her husband and she wants to go back to the land and be Wayne Bent’s wife. She believes she is the bride, she describes in her diaries, that she "is the bridette... bridelette," or the little wife, little bride of Wayne Bent. She doesn’t want to testify now. She’s made statements in the past and you’ll hear testimony from Kat Duff, who was a safe house interview that she took a statement from... with L.S.

You’ll also... So, she’s really... she really believes that nothing happened to her. She believes that Wayne Bent is a nice person. But the evidence will show differently, in terms of the responsibility of a person in authority.

You’ll hear that Mr. Bent is a religious leader of a community that’s about forty (40) miles, on northwest of Clayton. There’s anywhere, at the time that this occurred, there’s anywhere from one hundered (100) to eighty (80) people on the land and that they had... They were a disorganized group. They didn’t have meetings and any set time at that point. They had different meetings. They also listened to posts, and their computer all the time and they reflected a lot on the land. You’ll even hear testimony that L.S. wants to go back to the land. But, it will be your decision to look at the elements of the crime of criminal sexual contact on L.S. on July thirty-first, when L.S. was allowed to go into the defendant’s bedroom and lie naked.

You’ll also hear evidence through her sister, A.S.. A.S. has a totally different aspect of what happened. She was allowed to go into Wayne Bent’s bedroom and she felt a little bit differently. She was timid about this whole idea, but she got naked and the defendant, Wayne Bent, wasn’t naked. But she’ll testify, just like L.S., that there was a kiss. Both the girls were kissed on the lips. And then, she’ll tell you that she was kissed on the upper part of her breast. And so, and that was done on August second, her sixteenth birthday. You’ll hear that evidence. And you’ll also hear evidence of the contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

You’ll hear evidence from John and Elsa Sayer, the parents of L.S. and A.S. You’ll hear evidence that they were on the land since they were teenagers. Not on the land, but, as part of this church. And then about two thousand (2000), they moved to New Mexico, where they were on the land, at where the defendant lived, as well at that time, the two girls lived, which led to the criminal sexual contact happened. And you hear from John and Elsa Sayer that... You’ll hear, over the years, that it was difficult to live on the land. There was always this pressure, by reading the posts and listening to what was going on, that you always had to, to interpret what was going on, in terms of what Wayne Bent wanted you to do. He never told you, "You need to do this." He suggested things, for you to do, like he suggested that the children not attend school, because the world was going to end, that they didn’t need to get a formal education. And it wasn’t a rule, just over time, after this suggestion, and over time, then it became a rule. You’ll hear from them that it was hard living on the land, because if Wayne Bent believed you were doing something wrong, he wouldn’t tell you that you were doing something wrong, he would put a post or he would talk in a general meeting about what you did wrong. And it was such a small community, you’d know what you did wrong and you’d felt evil. You didn’t feel part of the community, but felt like you were doing something bad. They’ll testify to how this has affected the two young ladies, now that are both living with John and Elsa Sayer.

You’ll also hear from a psychologist, Dr. Dinsmore. She’ll testify to both. She tested A.S. and you’ll hear about the test results and her opinions on that. She also read the diary. And she read some writings from A.S. and she’ll talk about her opinions on that.

Finally, you’ll hear from Dr. Gordon Melton, who is an expert in the history of Theology, or the history of religion. And he’ll talk to you a little bit about religious practices and that, over the centuries, religions have practices and they have the free right to practice their religion, but when they break the law, that is not practicing their religion. That’s a crime.

And ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we’re here to show in our case today, that Mr. Wayne Bent, Michael Travesser, committed crimes here today, two counts of criminal sexual contact of minors between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, under authority. And he touched the naked intimate parts of those girls, to wit, a breast, L.S.’s breast and A.S.’s breast. Also two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. So it’s our burden. You have to listen to our witnesses. And it’s the State’s obligation to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this defendant here, Wayne Bent, is guilty of those charges.

Thank you very much.

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