Defense Opening - Sarah Montoya

Michael Travesser / Wayne Bent at sunset

Defense Opening Statement

May it please the Court.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we agree in part with what the prosecutors have to say. You do have to listen to the witnesses that the State presents. But we want you to listen to them with the full attention, using both ears. Because what A.S. is going to say is, "He touched me, here." The prosecutors want to call that her breast. I think common sense tells us where the breast is on a person. We asked A.S., and, you will hear her testify that he didn’t touch her anywhere else, but, here. And he kissed her. He doesn’t kiss, just her. He kisses everybody in his church. He is a very kind... he is a very gentle man. He is not a criminal. He did not commit criminal sexual contact.

Now what the prosecutor wants you to believe is that, and here’s the word, "allowed." She was "allowed" to come into his room. But, he doesn’t tell you, is that L.S. showed up at his trailer house in the middle of the night, when he was already in bed. What you will hear from Mr. Bent himself is that he was not naked and that his naked chest did not touch her naked chest, because he was very careful. He was always very careful. What the young lady did is, she came to him, saying she needed to feel closer to God. She needed to feel closer to God. And she will testify that, after he laid his hand on her, that she did feel closer to God. And ironically, the prosecutor is saying, "Well, she wrote in her diary, she calls herself the bridelette, the little bride. She calls Wayne Bent her husband." She doesn’t call Wayne Bent, her husband. And here’s where we get complicated. She calls Michael, her husband. Not unlike a nun in the Catholic Church, who wears a ring on her left hand, because she considers herself married to Jesus. Such is the way of thinking of L.S.; she considers herself joined to God. And in her mind, Michael is the spirit of the archangel Michael, who came into Wayne Bent. She’s not married to Wayne Bent. She knows Wayne Bent is a man. He’s a man, nothing more, nothing less. But the spirit of Michael, that they feel in him, and in themselves, as church members, is different from the man, Wayne Bent. So she considers herself married to God. And that’s why she wants to go back to the land as the prosecutor tells you. She wants to go back. They feel closer to God on the land.

It’s a different way of living than the way I live or the way many people live. But there’s nothing illegal going on. I found it interesting that they used the word, "allowed." She was, "allowed to come into his room." When a child comes knocking in the middle of the night, "May I come in?" He said, "You may enter." But, she does not believe that Wayne Bent is her husband. The State says that she doesn’t want to testify now. Well, the truth is, she never did. Still doesn’t. Because she doesn’t see anything wrong happened. Who better to be the judge, than the two young ladies who were with him? Neither one of them is going to tell you that anything sexual occurred. And what Mr. Bent is charged with is criminal sexual contact. When the girls themselves have said, "Nothing sexual happened."

They also portrayed him as a person in authority over these girls. Well, I grew up in a small town and I grew up raised Catholic and I would go to the Catholic Church every Sunday, but I can tell you, when I was 14 years old, I never considered the parish priest as being in authority over me. And he would have had to abuse that authority. What Strong City is, the place where Wayne Bent lives and practices his religion; it’s a little town. They have a little government and different people are managers. And there’s people that go for supplies, there’s people who call meetings. It’s not always Wayne Bent. He was not, never was, never has been, and still isn’t, in authority over these girls. He didn’t tell them when to come and go, when they could eat or, as the prosecutor brought up, whether or not they could get schooling. In fact, the pooled monies of the new government at the land bought home schooling, certified home schooling books. And they left it up to the parents. If you want to home school your child, you can, if you don’t want to, that’s fine. But everybody on the land had a computer. They had access to the internet and all of them, including the children, could go on the internet and learn about whatever they wanted to learn about. They had that ability. No one every told them, "You are not allowed to school these children." If that were true, why would they have spent the money on the home schooling materials?

The State tells you, "You’re going to have to look at the elements." And what is important about the elements is that it has to be a criminal sexual touching of the intimate parts of these females. The intimate parts of most females would be covered by a bikini. And these girls are not going to tell you that the parts that are covered by the bikini were touched by Wayne Bent.

So, we, too, want you to take very close attention to the jury instructions that you get at the end of the trial. And see whether the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the intimate parts of these girls were touched, constituting criminal, unlawful, sexual contact. He doesn’t deny that there was contact. He touched them right here... where you make the Pledge of Allegiance.

The State brings up the parents. The parents have lived under stress, the parents (unintelligible word) They didn’t know what to do. They’d read something on the internet, they’d read a post. They didn’t know how to act. And they put it on him, that they didn’t know how to act, or that they got stressed out? That’s why they moved away. That’s why they moved away. And that’s why the girls were still on the land, at the age of fourteen, without parents. Luckily, there were other family members who lived there, that watched over the girls. And basically... our former First Lady wrote a book called, "It Takes a Village." Look around you, there’s a village here. And these are the people, who all helped and raised these little girls. They all looked out after them and they all believe in him. And it’s a different lifestyle. But just because somebody is different doesn’t make them wrong, doesn’t make them a criminal. And that’s why we want you to listen, listen very carefully to those jury instructions. And the elements of the crime and that each and every one of the elements are met. They have to be met, each one, in order for the jury to find him guilty.

We heard how things became rules over time. Well, of course, they did. When things weren’t working, then they created rules, they created what they called, "the new government." And that’s typical of anywhere you live. Do you want dogs running loose? Do you want the garbage not picked up? Do you want no firewood in the winter? There were rules. But he wasn’t the one always making them. He wasn’t the person in authority. He was the pastor, like any pastor in any other community. That didn’t make him the person of authority over the children.

The State says they will call Dr. Melton, who says that religious practices are thus and so. But they’re not religion, if they break the law. Now I recall a case in the distant past where (unintelligible word)Apaches were smoking peyote and that was against the law, and they had to stop doing that. But things develop in new religions. There are rituals that develop. And if it breaks the law, then there’s a stop to it. They’re stopped. They put a stop to it. The State or the parties within the religion themselves. The problem we have is, we have a difference of opinion, between the prosecution and the defense, as to whether or not any law was broken. And we do not believe any law was broken. And, in fact, I don’t believe that the girls are going to testify that they were touched in a criminal sexual manner.

And that’s where you to decide. You are the triers of fact. So, we want you as you listen to the State’s witnesses. Listen carefully and listen with the thought, "Is this what really happened, was a law really broken?" And are they going to put on experts that say, "Oh well, the girls don’t know what they are talking about." If the girls don’t say what the State wants them to say, then they’re going to find another way around it, "Well, you know they didn’t mean it because they didn’t understand. And they were afraid of him and he’s a person of authority." And we don’t think that’s how the evidence is going to play out. We don’t believe it ever happened. There are certain elements that must be met and we don’t think they can prove them.

So, as the prosecutors stand before you and said, "You have to listen to our witnesses." We agree. Listen, listen very carefully. Because, in reality, there are only two witnesses, and those are the two females. Because there are only two people in the room on the certain... on the date certain, this was supposed to have occurred. The girl and the man. And those are the only two people who knew what happened. Everything else is what everybody heard later. There’s only two people that knew what happened, actually happened. It’s the girl and the man. And we do not believe the testimony will show that the State can be affirmative.

Thank you.

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