Emilio Chavez rebuttal remarks

Michael Travesser / Wayne Bent at sunset

Miss Montoya closed with, "...just because you are different."

A different aspect is not what we are holding Mr. Bent accountable for. It is not because of his religious beliefs. The testimony at this trial, Mr. Bent didn’t say, "I did it, and I did it because of my religious beliefs." You remember his testimony. He stated, for the first time ever on the stand we heard now, "I was wearing boxer shorts." But he said, "I was very careful, I didn’t try to touch their breasts."

This case comes down to whether you believe he touched their breasts or NOT! It is not about religion. It is not about religion. The religious aspect that we’re focusing on is that position of authority and his not being … Because of this religion, any religion, whether it was the Catholic church, whether it was at a Jewish synagogue, whether it was a teacher in school, or a principal, that’s what we are looking at, the position that he occupied. And you know who best exemplified that position of authority that he had over them?

L.S. came here, and she talked about, and you remember and this references, those letters that Ms Montoya read to you. Did it look like we were forcing her to testify, we were dragging words out of her mouth? She was saying what she believed was honest and what happened that day. And she told you in those letters she didn’t believe it was for sexual purposes that it was for sexual gratification. Well L.S. does not know the elements of the law that are presented to you.

But here is where that position of authority came in. She said, “But I love Michael,” and that’s ok, that’s perfectly ok. She wants to go back to Michael, over her parents. She wants to go back to live at Strong City. And this is the type of authority that you got to see, that is exhibited with everybody that testified that participated in that cult. He operated, whether he was the administrator, whether he was the teacher, whatever, he had a position of authority.Now that position of authority doesn’t mean he’s the dictator, as the defense wants you to think, that we're painting him as the dictator, that he has to be all encompassing, everything that happens at Strong City has to have his stamp of approval. That’s not what it means.

It means as is a teacher, as a principal, that he can use undue influence to cause this to happen. And that’s what we have.That’s why Dr. Dinsmore talked about this is an example of a grooming behavior. And what she said was important and she didn’t say that this is definitively grooming. She didn’t say that he’s necessarily a sexual predator. But the point that she made is this is what you see in someone that looks to gain trust of the women. Slowly, over time gain the trust to where sexual relations can occur.

Now, Ned Seigel said, you normally see it quicker than this. If you remember on cross examination, I talked to him and I said,

“Well, can it happen slower?”

He said,

I don’t know, maybe.You don’t usually see that.”

“Well, have you talked to Mr. Bent?”

He said,


“Have you talked to anybody outside the Cult?”

“No.  I formed my opinion by talking to the followers.”

And that’s where Dr. Melton was so important. And Ms. Montoya asked him about his past experiences with dealing with former members, former hostile members, and current members. And what Dr. Melton told us, current members only talk about the good, they don’t ever talk about anything bad that happened. They’re talking about the good. And that’s what you gotta see. Ms. Montoya put those members on, the current members. They only talked about the good. There was not a negative mentioned. And then you have former members and those hostile members and he said, well you have to be careful with them, because they only focus on the bad.

Ms. Montoya wants you to disregard John Sayer, who said, "I could still be friends" or "I still consider myself a friend of Mr. Bent." Well that’s important, he didn’t appear hostile. He didn’t appear hostile, but he relayed some of these negative aspects that happened.You have to look at everything as a whole. Ms. Montoya walked you through all those witnesses and said, this doesn’t give you that beyond a reasonable doubt. No, everything collectively that you’ve heard gives you this case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now, during defense’s argument, they didn’t focus on those elements, the elements that are the law of New Mexico. She kept going, "It doesn’t prove criminal sexual contact with a minor. It doesn’t prove contributing to the delinquency of a minor." But, the elements that are contained in the jury instructions are what the law of New Mexico holds. If you look through these, you can search through each and every instruction. They don’t favor one religion over another. They don’t talk about religion. The idea of these instructions is to treat all religions equally.

Now there’s a couple other instructions that we haven’t dealt with, that are important. In addition to the other elements of criminal sexual conduct of a minor, as charged in counts 1 and 2 and contributing to the delinquency of a minor as charged in counts 3 and 4, the State must prove your satisfaction, beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted intentionally when he committed these crimes. A person acts intentionally when he purposely does an act which the law declares to be a crime. Even though he may not know that the act is unlawful. This is the intent element. This is what we are looking at.

Mr. Bent does not have to know that this was unlawful. The law says it was unlawful. Additionally, additionally, the aspect of Mr. Bent’s testimony... he told us that when L.S. came to his room, he knew this was going to be trouble. He said he kind of figured he was going to be here. He knew that there was something wrong with what was happening. But what did he say, “I couldn’t deny her request." "I couldn’t deny her request. I didn’t tell her to leave." "I didn’t have a ceremony like in these pictures, where everybody is around and it’s in the daytime and people can see for sure that this is not for sexual purposes. There can be pictures to show that I’m not touching the breasts. "

Those pictures also, I sat there and watched those pictures. You have them to bring back to the jury room. He had his hand directly over a chest of those members, directly over. There’s a picture of his hands directly over the breasts of one of the members of Strong City. That’s what described by L. S. and A. S.. That same, putting his hand … just like that. The difference with this, the difference from those pictures is in the privacy of his bedroom, by himself with girls under the age of 18.

Now a component that everybody always focuses on, that we always look at is, beyond a reasonable doubt. What does beyond a reasonable doubt mean? Does the State have to prove that there is no doubt whatsoever, that there is no possible interpretation that we could possibly look at, that changes? No it’s, beyond a reasonable doubt. That doesn’t mean beyond all possible doubts.

Now an example of this is, you go to Walmart, and you buy a 500 piece puzzle at Walmart. You have a big table like this and it is a puzzle of the United States and you start up in the borders, you’re doing the border of the puzzle and you know you have the United States and Canadian border, you’re working your way along you see the Pacific Ocean, you have California, you start to see the border of the United States with Mexico and you have Nevada and Arizona and New Mexico. The puzzle is coming along and you’re putting all the pieces in, you’re going up along. You get to Florida, you’re going up along the east coast, all those pieces are coming in. You’re almost done. And you look in the box and there is no more pieces and you look down at the puzzle and you’re missing Kansas and Missouri and Nebraska. Do you still know that that is a puzzle of the United States? And you do. That’s what reasonable doubt is.

So in this case, the State has presented L.S. telling you what happened. We didn’t force her to testify. She got on the stand. She told you, she responded to my questions. She told you what happened she told you about him laying on her stomach, the head on her breast, the hand over the sternum, the hand on her heart.

You heard from A.S., who told you that she wasn’t comfortable with Mr. Bent getting naked. So she got naked, he kissed her breast, put his hand on her heart. And these things are the things that constitute criminal sexual contact with a minor. You have the elements that are defined by the law. I’m not going to belabor these points. I’m not going to continue to nag on this. The aspect that we have is Mr. Bent. The evidence that we have is their testimony and we have Mr. Bent that doesn’t deny doing these things. He doesn’t deny doing these things. He says, "I was careful. I wasn’t doing this for sexual purposes. This was what they had requested of me." He didn’t say that this is a religious ceremony that we followed that is customary. What he said is that, "I didn’t do it". And the girls say that he did.

Now the instruction that Ms. Montoaya says the State wants you not to look at sexual gratification. Well, part of the instruction says, "Must be done with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desires." But again, there’s that OR. There’s not an AND. So, that means that could be one purpose. If we had, if there had been evidence to prove that it was for sex or aroused or gratify sexual desire, that could have been presented. But when you read this, there is a big OR and that’s done to intrude upon the bodily integrity of L.S. or the bodily integrity of A.S. That’s what we are saying. These acts, we don’t know what was in Mr. Bent’s head. We don’t know what he was thinking at the time. The acts intruded on the bodily integrity of those women, of those children.

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor, this is why this one is different. Those charges... why there’s also those two charges. Those two charges are there because he permitted this to happen. He told us in his testimony he permitted her to take her clothes off. He permitted L.S. to take her clothes off. He permitted A.S. to take her clothes off. And allowing them to do this act, is what is the delinquency that occurred there. The State is not saying that the children at Strong City are delinquent. We’re looking at that specific delinquent act that the law holds them accountable for and you get to make the decision on.

Now all of this evidence as a whole, going through all of these witnesses, everything that you’ve heard proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Wayne Bent or Michael Travesser is guilty of all four of these charges and I ask you to render a verdict of guilty.

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