Allasso Travesser's statement of support

Michael Travesser / Wayne Bent at sunset

I was a witness for the defense in the trial of The State of New Mexico vs. Wayne Bent. I am 52 years old and I have known Wayne for about 17 years, and have been a part of the Lord Our Righteousness Church family for the same amount of time. I preface my statement here saying that I am not one much given to understanding the legal system and reasoning according to its forms and proceedings. My role in witnessing in Wayne’s trial was the first involvement I have ever had with the legal system. So what I have to state here comes mainly from the perspective of my personal experience with the trial, and how it was interpreted from a standpoint of normal, sane reasoning, rather than from the machinery of the law. This sane reasoning, I believe, is God-given to everyone born, for what little child does not know that they should always tell the truth?

My experience in Wayne’s trial was a difficult one for me, for it was so different, and opposed to, the sane, reasonable way of dealing with issues of justice with which I had been familiar through my involvement with the Lord Our Righteousness Church. If ever there was a conflict of some kind, the Church would gather together with the focus of seeking to find the truth of the matter, and to bring benefit and resolution to all involved. The truth was always the heart of our purpose in these dealings, no matter what that truth would reveal. Our processes were always of the nature of breaking down prejudice, yet to my dismay and disappointment, the State’s hosting of Wayne’s trial did not only fail in trying to disarm prejudice, but seemed to be fueled by it, even to the point of working to instill it into the very ones who would be deciding Wayne’s guilt or innocence — the jury. This came from both the prosecution and the bench.

I digress here for a moment to say that I saw that a contributing part of this travesty was due to a “justice” system that in reality is not about justice at all, but is a machine that pits two sides against each other to see who will win. It is rife with protocols and proceedings that actually work against the quest for truth and justice, if there is any. If an innocent man goes free, it is not because justice has been served but because one side knew how to manipulate the machinery better than the other. If his defense fails at this, then an innocent man gets sent to prison. It is a machine with no reason or heart, and is inherently incapable of serving true justice. It is just built in.

However, this is no excuse for those who exploit this failing in order to enact their prejudices and have an arena to use outright deception to send an innocent man to prison. This is exactly what I witnessed with Wayne’s trial. Simply said, there just were no facts to support that there was a crime. There was no actual testimony given by any of the witnesses that there was ever a crime committed. Even the presiding judge stated on record during a bench conference that there was never any evidence given to support a conviction. This was during closing arguments, after all evidence for the trial had been presented. Yet this same judge not only upholds Wayne’s conviction, but proceeds to send him to prison for 10 years, and orders him to register as a sex offender, which in essence would be an admission of guilt, something that Wayne has refused to do.

Furthermore, the machinery was not only exploited, but was even violated, as I witnessed many times during preliminary proceedings actions that even to my legally challenged mind appeared as contradictory to the very laws that were being discussed. At times it seemed to me like the judge was making it up as he went along, and that certainly seemed true for the DA. These apparent contradictions were confirmed to me later as I read the answer brief submitted to the Court of Appeals by Wayne’s attorney John McCall. Rather than expound on these instances here, I refer the reader to John’s very clear and excellent exposition on these matters in his brief, which can be viewed online.

That this trial was agenda-driven was an element that presented itself in many ways. When I was being cross-examined on the witness stand, I got the sense that the prosecutor was working to manufacture a fallacious picture of life at Strong City by asking carefully chosen questions in order to seed the jury with prejudice, and present a view of Wayne that had him in control of everyone in the land. Some of the questioning actually seemed ridiculous to me, and certainly having nothing to do with the incident for which a conviction was being sought.

Had the State been sincere, and truly in quest for justice to be served, it would have sought to understand Wayne, and to understand the nature of Strong City rather than try to promote its prepackaged and ill-informed view of us. But perhaps being informed would have been counter to its agenda. My time on the witness stand proved to me that from the State’s point of view, I was not there to give a testimony, but only used to supply brief answers to a chosen set of questions. I was not allowed to explain my answers nor go into detail in any way. I also observed this during the time when Wayne was on the stand. When I refer to the State here, I am including the presiding judge in this case, for I observed many times Judge Baca prohibiting the witnesses from explaining their answers in order to give a context to the situation about which they were being questioned.

Had they sought to understand us, it would have revealed a picture that was far different than the one they were promoting, and could have served to disarm the prejudice that brought a conviction in the face of no evidence or testimony that there was ever a crime committed. But even if the prejudicial views of our church and religion were correct (which, let me state very clearly here, were not), it would not justify sending a man to prison for something that he never did. There just simply was no crime committed. And it certainly would not justify giving him such a severe sentence, one not even given to previous-time sex offenders.

The injustice thrust upon Wayne is very saddening to me, for it flies in the face of all that he has lived and sacrificed for. It is perfectly juxtaposed to Wayne’s own deep sense and conviction of truth and justice that has been the rule of his life since his spiritual conversion in 1967. Wayne has sacrificed himself to provide a place for all of us, a place where the only governing principle is that we always tell the truth. While I was on the witness stand the prosecutor asked me how I knew a certain thing, and I answered that it was because Wayne told me. He then asked, “And you believed him?” to which I affirmatively replied. He seemed to be trying to make an issue of the fact that I would just believe Wayne without question, as if there was something wrong with that. My perspective on this is that if there is someone whom you can’t believe without question, then there is something wrong with that. No one here in this land ever asks, “And you believed him?” about anyone else here, because everyone here always tells the truth, at all times. Such unquestioning faith among us is not blind or injudicious, but it is simply that we are bound together by a common inner principle that values honesty above everything else. We know each other. Perhaps they have not tried to understand us because it would be threatening to their world. I am not ignorant of the fact that the pure honesty that is the foundation of Strong City is an unrealized ideal for most people and thus something that makes them feel uncomfortable. I watched and heard the prosecutor in Wayne’s trial lie boldly and outright in closing argument when he told the jury that A.S. testified that Wayne kissed her on the round fleshy part of the breast. I also watched as the judge permitted this to go unchecked.

Had they truly been seeking justice, and sought to understand us and know the man with whom they had been dealing, they could have discovered a community that is grounded in love and respect for the integrity of another. They would have seen that their suspicions of Wayne being a manipulator who used his authority to gratify some selfish sexual desire are actually ludicrous. This is certainly very far from the Wayne that I have known for the last 17 years. I have only known one who is and has always been motivated solely by a very deep regard and interest in the welfare and well-being of others, and has only sought to elevate the soul and help them to know and draw closer to God. The whole time I have known Wayne, I have only witnessed his life to be a continual sacrifice for the people of the Church, with no regard for his own self. Yes, I can understand how one reading may think these statements to be incredible, and think that I am being a bit passionate and overstating things here. Well, dear reader, I declare that what I have said is not overstated in the least. Strong City is truly an incredible place. It is nothing like the world with which most people are familiar.

The notion that the people of Strong City are controlled by intimidation or are under some kind of "charismatic" influence would be downright laughable to me, were the fruits of this not so tragic. The use of this kind of force seems to be more descriptive of Wayne’s accusers, who demonstrated malice in dealing with his case. I wonder, if Judge Baca received a 10-year sentence for a first-time conviction for touching the breast of a young woman, even if he had actually done it, would he have considered it a just sentence? Would he have said, “Oh yes, I agree, I deserve that”? If Senior Trial Prosecutor Emilio Chavez had received a 10-year sentence because the prosecutor in his trial influenced the jury with prejudice and then lied to them during closing arguments, would he have felt that everything was okay and that he had been treated fairly? Well I think, probably not.

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