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Strong City Leader to Remain Behind Bars

Strong City appears as a small clutch of mobile homes in northeastern New Mexico.
Maren Tarro
Strong City appears as a small clutch of mobile homes in northeastern New Mexico.

In another setback for Wayne Bent, his petition for an appeal bond has been denied. The New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision came on Monday, Oct. 26, and, according to defense attorney John McCall, “the Supreme Court did not issue findings in its ruling regarding why Mr. Bent should be denied an appeal bond.” 

McCall explained the significance of this saying, “The federal courts have consistently required that findings should be made by the courts when denying an appeal bond as this is a crucial issue affecting the defendant’s right to due process.”

Bent is the religious founder of Strong City, which is in northeastern New Mexico. He lay naked with teenaged girls as part of a healing ritual and says he didn’t touch them in a sexual manner. He was convicted on two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of criminal sexual contact with a minor last year. He filed an appeal early this year. (I spent time at Strong City earlier this year).

Jeff Bent, Wayne Bent’s son, expressed his frustration in an e-mail to the Alibi, writing, “For whatever reason, the courts are unwilling to deal with the fact that my father has very substantial grounds for a reversal and that he should be home while the issues of his conviction are revisited through the long process of his appeal. The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals were not even willing to justify their actions in writing.”

Wayne Bent’s reaction to the court’s decision reveals his own frustration. In a phone call yesterday to his son and church members Bent told them, “I have no confidence in the state for it has already proven it’s inability to read and understand plain English. “What is it about, ‘No, he did not touch me sexually,’ that you don’t understand?”

Bent has refused to take food for the past 60 days and is under a court order to be force fed. The forced feeding consists of Ensure and Glucerna being put through a tube in his nose. Bent was fed in this manner for a week. Unable to tolerate the tube feeding, Bent has since agreed to drink the Ensure and Glucerna on his own but refuses any other nourishment.

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, Bent’s attorney filed a brief in chief with the New Mexico Court of Appeals. The brief details the defense’s arguments for overturning Bent’s convictions. The brief raises 10 issues including grand jury selection, a one-week time limit imposed for the trial and resulting limits on defense witnesses, denial of a religious defense and lack of evidence. The brief can be read in full on the Strong City website.

The state has 45 days to file a response. However the Court of Appeals is not required to wait for the state’s response in order to make a decision. Jeff Bent does not foresee the court taking this route. Speaking to the Alibi by phone last night Jeff, who sounded tired and strained, said, “We’re not expecting any help in that way.”

Jeff expects the court to make a decision in late winter or early spring.

 

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