Wayne Bent, a former Seventh-day Adventist minister, is cofounder of The Lord Our Righteousness church, based in a small community known as Strong City in New Mexico. After being made the subject of the sensationalized NatGeo film Inside a Cult, he was charged and sentenced to 10 years in prison over events related to a religious healing ritual. His trial was covered extensively by the news media in New Mexico, and made the subject of a followup NatGeo film, Inside a Cult: Messiah on Trial.
Mr. Bent writes about the ramifications of his criminal case, and the religious acts that led to his 10 year prison sentence in the article entitled What Actually Happened, originally published in March of 2011, and expanded and updated in October, 2012.
Mr. Bent appealed his criminal convictions in 2009, and in 2011 they were tossed out by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, who ruled that the grand jury in the case had purported to issue the indictment long after its term had expired. The attorney general’s office appealed the ruling, and in 2012 the New Mexico Supreme Court reinstated Mr. Bent’s convictions. The Supreme Court agreed that the grand jury was past its term, but took the position that there is no remedy “post-conviction.”
Mr. Bent’s case has been retured to the Court of Appeals for consideration of the other issues related to his 2008 trial.
Mr. Bent, also known as Michael Travesser, has steadfastly maintained his innocence, as have the members of his church. Indeed, even the two witnesses the state used who were participants in the healing ritual at issue have gone on the record to declare Mr. Bent’s innocence, and to protest the state’s actions against Mr. Bent as dishonest and driven by prejudice.
Mr. Bent remains incarcerated at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas.