Prosecution Summation

Michael Travesser / Wayne Bent at sunset

Judge Baca: Now the lawyers will argue the case. What is said in arguments is not evidence. It is an opportunity for the lawyers to discuss the evidence and the law as I have instructed you. The State has a right to argue first, the defense may then argue and the State may then reply. All right the State may argue at this point in time.

Emilio Chavez -

Thank you your honor. May it please the court, counsel, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Thank you for your patience in this case. I know it’s been a long time, a long week. Now is the important part of your service. It’s where the case comes to you.

Now the big thing in this case and the big part that we need to start out with is the misconceptions. The misconception number one that we’re looking at it, is there’s this idea of consent. These girls came to Wayne Bent. You just heard the instructions as offered by the court and the law of New Mexico. Consent is not an issue in this case.

The next aspect that we’re looking at, that you’ve heard continually through the trial is, "Was this for sexual gratification?" Another misconception. This case is not about sexual gratification. And I will explain that through the law and the jury instructions that you will be presented and get to take back with you to the jury room.

Now the big pink elephant in this room, that you’ve been hearing for five days, was this idea of religion. This case is not about religion. It is not about making a determination if Mr. Bent’s beliefs are correct or wrong, if they’re better than anyone else’s beliefs, if anybody here is wrong. The case is not about religion. It’s the law of New Mexico and what the case is about is a neutral law that holds everybody equally accountable. If anybody else in the state of New Mexico committed these acts, as you’ve heard through the course of this trial, they would be held accountable for these charges. An analogy and I’m not trivializing the situation, but an analogy for you to think of, is imagine my beliefs are that Tomas Benavidez, my co-counsel is possessed by the devil. And I believe the only way to get the devil out of Tomas Benavidez is to walk over to him and slap him upside of the head, and that that will clear the devil from him. Now the reason I use this as an analogy is because, just because that’s my belief, and let’s say I honestly believe that and it's part of my religion. That’s still a battery under the law and I would be held accountable, just as if somebody out of the blue, had came up to Mr. Benavidez and hit him upside the head. So the law is, holding this criminal sexual contact, not because of his religious beliefs, not because of the beliefs of Strong City, but because the law is neutral and it holds everybody accountable for those actions.

Now the next thing, and the central theme that you’ve heard from the State from the beginning, from Mr. Benavidez’s opening, is this case is about Mr. Bent misusing his trust and authority over these two young girls. He used his position of authority to cause these girls to come to his room, to lay naked and while they laid naked, he committed criminal sexual contact. Now this brings us into the story that we’ve heard. And we have all these surrounding aspects. And that’s why I addressed the misconceptions from the beginning. There’s all these surrounding aspects that we’re looking at. And the real focus, this is a simple case. It’s a simple story presented to you the members of the jury. It’s a story of Mr. Bent and his followers. And you’ve heard over the course, you’ve heard from both current members, former members, and you’ve heard that they follow his teachings and that he teaches them to follow their heart, and to follow what God tells them. And what we’ve heard is, prior to these incidents, Mr. Bent sent out an email that he was looking for seven virgins. You heard from both L.S. and A. S. that they were part of these seven virgins that Mr. Bent came and talked to them. He gave them his teachings. He talked about what these were for. He had certain ceremonies involving plagues, that these were messengers. You’ve even been presented with the pictures that showed pouring out of the plagues.

But here’s where we come to these charges today. You heard, on July thirty-first, two thousand and six, L.S. felt in her heart the need to go be close to God and lie naked with God. And she walked over to Mr. Bent’s residence, she sat outside the window for a half an hour. Mr. Bent noticed that she was there and invited her into his house. You heard that L.S. walked into his house, went straight to the bedroom, told Mr. Bent what she was thinking, that she wanted to lay naked with him, to be skin to skin, to be closer to God. Mr. Bent did not tell her to leave, did not say, "Put your clothes on." "This is not right." We heard from Mr. Bent what he said. Mr. Bent said,

“I knew this was going to be trouble. I knew this was going to be troubling, but I couldn’t refuse her request. I couldn’t refuse her request. She asked to lay naked with me and it would be disingenuous with what I have taught them to do, to follow their heart, if I refused her there. That would be wrong."

He even said, on the stand he said, the aspect that, if she’d asked me to rob a bank, I couldn’t refuse her request. So what happened as L.S. describes to us? L.S. describes, she asked if it was ok. She was surprised that he said ok and that it could happen now. She took her clothes off. She told us that Mr. Bent was naked, that he told her he was naked. It was dark, but she didn’t see anything, but that he told her that he was naked and she knew that Mr. Bent was naked, and that she knew he was naked. She crawled into bed with him. Initially they had some distance. They came together and that he embraced her initially, neither one of them wearing any clothing. L.S. told you what she was feeling, the aspects that what they talked about. But what we are looking at here is L.S. also told you, "He put his hand on my sternum. He put his hand on my heart."

Now during this case, when this goes back to the jury, it doesn’t ask you to disregard all common sense. The defense counsel brought out a Barbie doll. These two young girls are not Barbie dolls. That’s not what we are looking at. We’re dealing with real people and your real common sense. Somebody puts their hand on their heart, part of their hand is touching the breast. And in this situation, L.S. demonstrated how he put his hand on the heart and when he put his hand on the heart he was touching part of L.S.’s breast... part of L.S.’s breast.

She also talked about in continuing with that contact. She told you that he laid across her body with his chest on her abdomen and his head on her breast. If you recall I asked where were Mr. Bent’s arms? And she said I don’t remember. And if you think about laying across somebody, and Mr. Bent said, "I was using my arms to support, so I wouldn’t be putting all my weight on her." But if he’s laying across where is he putting his arms? Where is his head? Where’s the rest of his body? Mr. Bent is naked and L.S. is naked on that July 31st, 2006.

During this interaction of over a half an hour, you have the sexual contact, as testified by L.S. and not denied by Mr. Bent. The other aspect, if you remember Mr. Bent’s testimony on L.S., he said, "I was really careful and I put my hand on her sternum." You had the opportunity to observe these two girls. They’re little small girls. You saw Mr. Bent’s hand. You cannot put your hand on somebody’s sternum, on a woman’s sternum without touching the breast. If you lay your hand flat across, part of your hand is going to be touching the breast of L.S. The next aspect that we’re looking at is a short time later. And I apologize, L.S., Mr. Bent told you, that she was 14 and 11 months at that time.

Now, A.S., three days later, in the early evening comes to Mr. Bent’s trailer. He lets her in. He brings her into the living room. They start talking about it. She starts talking about her need to also lay naked with Mr. Bent. What does Mr. Bent do? He leads her to the bedroom. He leads her to the bedroom. He comes in and he tells A.S., “Take your clothes off.” He leaves the room. She takes her clothes off and she goes and lays down on the bed. She told you she didn’t lay under the sheets, she didn’t lay under the blanket. A short while after Mr. Bent comes in. What did A.S. tell us? She said, "Mr. Bent came in," and I asked her what type of contact occurred? She said, "We talked for a little bit, that, "He kissed me on the lips." I said, "How many times did he kiss you on the lips?" And she said, “Several.” And I said, "More than once? and she said, “Yes." "More than twice?" and she said, “Yes.” We’re not talking about the lips, the next thing that I asked was, I said did he kiss you anywhere else? And she said, “He kissed me on the breast.” Ms. Montoya came up and asked, “Was it the round fleshy part?” And again A.S. said, “Yes. He kissed me on the round fleshy part of my breast." A.S. also told us that he also put his hand on her heart. Again, that same type of contact, that same type of contact. On top of him kissing her breast, he put his hand on her breast. That’s why that charge is offered.

Now we also heard this situation differentiated a little bit from L.S.’s. A.S. was not comfortable with Mr. Bent being naked. She did not necessarily want to lay skin to skin. But, the key components with both these interactions is they were feeling in their heart, they’re feeling in their heart the need to be close to God, the need for this to happen. And this was following the teachings of Mr. Bent told us that he preaches to his followers. Follow your heart, to follow what you believe God is instructing you. These girls believed it. And that’s where that theme of misuse of his trust and authority. Based on his position and his influence over them. He didn’t tell them, "Let’s wait, let’s wait, let’s go out in front of the congregation or the followers of Strong City. We’ll do this in public, we’ll do this with other people around so that we can see, so that they can see the religious healing process, all these other aspects." He didn’t ask to it later. And he knew, from his testimony that this was troubling.

Now an important aspect that we heard was, Ms. Montoya put on Allasso Michael Travesser. And I believe his name prior to that was Kevin. And I know with all these names, it can be confusing because Mr. Bent is also referred to as Michael Travesser. Allasso Travesser's testimony was very important. And you know why his testimony was important? Because he went through a healing process with Mr. Bent. Mr. Bent came to his house. They talked about it. Mr. Bent asked him to lay down in the living room. He didn’t tell him he had to go to the bedroom. He didn’t tell him, for the same healing process, that he needed to be naked. He did not get naked. He did not lay his hand on the naked breast of Allasso Michael Travesser. He put his hand over his heart in a similar fashion, but it was not the same thing.

Now the other components of this case that we’re looking at too and that’s been expressed by defense counsel and by the State is we’re not dealing with women that are over the age of 18. We’re dealing with in 2006, L.S. being 14 years and 11 months, and A.S. on her August 2nd., 2006, was her 16th birthday. The elements have been presented to you to find, the criminal sexual contact with a minor beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Bent does not deny the components, that make up these charges. These girls have testified to this. And that’s where those misconceptions come in. The State's not saying that any of this was for sexual gratification. We weren’t there. We’re basing it on their testimony and on the words of Mr. Bent. We’re not saying that these girls didn’t come and approach him and ask him. Because consent is not an element of this crime with these underage girls. We’re not saying that his beliefs are wrong. We’re holding a neutral, under the law, in treating Mr. Bent the same as everybody else.

Now the judge gave you these instructions and we’ve walked through the story and the instructions that we’re looking at for criminal sexual contact with a minor, and I’m going to get to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The defendant touched or applied force to the unclothed breast of L.S. and A.S. That’s what count 1 and count 2 asked for. That’s the first element that the State must prove. You heard Mr. Bent say that he put his hand over their heart. You heard L.S. say that. You heard A.S. say it that he kissed my breast and put his hand over the heart. A.S. also said that he embraced me, laid with his bare chest on my abdomen area, and again that’s where that common sense comes in. You don’t have to throw that away. You know that where he described putting his head on her chest and there is only a certain possibility of where these arms could go.

The next element. The defendant was a person who by reason of the defendant’s relationship to L.S. and A.S. was able to exercise undue influence over L.S. and A.S. and used his authority to coerce L.S. to submit to sexual contact. Now this element has a lot of components to it. We’ve heard from current members, former members. We’ve heard from experts, from Dr. Melton. We’ve heard from Dr. Dinsmore, and Ned Seigel, and you’ve heard the aspect that these charismatic leaders of these types of organizations have over their followers. Remember Allasso Travesser, when he was testifying and I said, "How do you know that this didn’t happen?" And he said, "Because Michael told me." I said, "Do you believe everything that Michael says?" And he says, ”Yes. I believe everything that Wayne Bent or Michael Travesser says.” They’re under the influence. They follow the teachings and he’s misused that position to coerce these two young girls to come into his bed, where he then had a sexual contact with both L.S. and A.S.

Now, the Barbie doll, again is important, because we look at that and Ms. Montoya came out and said and it was like, where are the areas that the bikini covers up? And the important aspect, again with the common sense of you members of the jury, sexual contact, a man putting his hand on a breast, on the breast, is a sexual contact. It doesn’t have to be for sexual gratification. And putting that hand on the breast, and kissing the breast, and laying naked is a sexual contact.

The other three elements I don’t think there is any doubt in this case, that both alleged victims, L.S. and A.S. were under the age of 18. And that this happened in New Mexico. And I apologize, there’s one other component that we need to explore, as far as the criminal sexual contact. And that’s the defendant's act was unlawful. And this is what that instruction reads, in addition to the other elements of criminal sexual contact with a minor, as charged in Count 1 and Count 2, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s act was unlawful. For the act to been unlawful it must have been done with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire. Now I told you that this case isn’t about sexual desire or sexual gratification. That’s why this instruction is important. Because right after that line it says, "or," "or," that "or" is important, because the law holds another aspect. For this to be unlawful, the State can prove that Mr. Bent had done this to intrude upon the bodily integrity of personal safety of L.S. That’s what this case is about. He intruded on the bodily integrity of L.S. and A.S., when he touched their breasts. It’s not about sexual gratification or arouse or gratify sexual desire, not about personal safety, but about intruding on the bodily integrity of two underage girls.

Now here’s contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And this charge can be a little confusing. That’s why we’re going to walk through it and look through how this evidence shows us that Mr. Bent is guilty of Counts 3 and 4. The defendant permitted L.S. and A.S. to take their clothes off and lay naked with him. And touched their unclothed, intimate part, to wit; their breast, with a part or parts of his body. So the delinquent act that we’ve been focusing on, that Ms. Montoya says, "What is the delinquency?" That’s the delinquent act. That he permitted these two girls to lay naked in his private bedroom, with nobody else there. And when they laid naked, he touched their intimate parts, their breasts.

Now here’s the tough issue on contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And this is where it really comes down to you, the members of the jury. Element two, has caused L.S. and A.S. to conduct theirselves in a manner injurious to the morals or welfare of these two girls. Now the reason I say this is one of the tough components of being a juror. But under State v Trevino, the Courts have held that contributing to the delinquency of a minor requires proof of fact, not required for contributing to criminal sexual contact with a minor. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor requires proof that the act of the defendant contributed to the delinquency of the minor.

What this element, element number two, caused them to conduct theirselves in a manner injurious to the morals and welfare of these two girls. That’s for you to interpret. That’s for you to determine that this conduct was injurious to the morals and welfare of L.S. and A.S. The decision you’re going to make as jurors.

Another element of contributing to the delinquency of a minor is that these girls were under 18. I don’t think we have any aspect of doubt that they were under the age of 18. And that this happened in New Mexico on the 31st day of 2006 and on the 2nd day of August 2006.

Now ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been presented everything, evidence from the victims, from the victim’s parents, from the current members of the cult. You’ve got to hear from Dr. Dinsmore, you got to hear from Dr. Melton, you got to hear from the defense’s Dr. Seigel, and you got to hear from Dr. O’Leary. And you also got to hear Mr. Bent testify. You have everything you need, provided by the law, to hold Mr. Bent accountable for these 4 crimes, as charged. And at the conclusion of your deliberation, I asked you to find the defendant Wayne Bent guilty of criminal sexual contact with a minor, with A.S., as charged in Count 1, criminal sexual contact with a minor of A.S., as charged in Count 2, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor with L.S., as charged as in Count 3, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor with L.S., as charged in count 4. And I ask you to render a guilty verdict on all four counts.

Thank you very much.

Back to Transcripts menu

To return to the trial "transcripts menu," click the "Trial" tab at the top of this page.