TAOS, N.M. – The leader of an apocalyptic sect convicted of sexual misconduct with young female followers isn't hoping for a break when he's sentenced and likely wouldn't live long in prison, his son says.
Wayne Bent, 67, faces up to 18 years in prison for his felony convictions on Monday on one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
State law requires a minimum of three years in prison on the criminal sexual contact conviction.
Bent says he probably wouldn't eat if were locked up again.
"He says he's finished with his work. ... He has nothing more to do here," Jeff Bent said after the verdict was announced in a courtroom in Taos.
"He's told me many times he's not going to be in prison very long," the son said.
Wayne Bent's court-appointed lawyer, Sarah Montoya of Raton, said she expects to appeal the case.
"It was really about religion," she said. "He was convicted because of prejudice."
Bent, a former minister with the Seventh-day Adventist Church who broke away two decades ago, is the leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church. He claims God spoke to him in 2000 and told him he was the Messiah.
Bent and the two young sisters who lay naked with him — 14 and 16 at the time — claim the separate incidents in July and August 2006 were spiritual exercises.
"It was a religious healing experience for me. ... It had nothing to do with sex," the younger of the girls, now 17, said after the verdict. "It had to do with healing to my heart."
Bent was found not guilty on a criminal sexual contact charge involving the younger girl, whose name in the sect is Healed.
He was convicted of criminal sexual contact with Healed's older sister, and for contributing to the delinquency of both girls.
Bent testified last week that he placed his hand on the sternums, but not the breasts, of the girls.
The older sister testified he also kissed her breast.
"Just as with Jesus they convicted an innocent man," Bent said after the verdict.
But he said it was all part of God's plan.
"These encounters with these two girls were intended to offend your world and make you mad and convict me," he said.
Bent was allowed to return to the remote ranch called Strong City, near the Colorado-New Mexico line, to await sentencing.
He must stay there except for visits with his lawyer and appointments related to pre-sentence evaluation, and he was told not to contact the girls.
The younger girl, now 17, is living with her parents but wants to return to Strong City when she turns 18.
"God's in control and my heart's with Michael, and it's like wherever he goes, that's where my heart is," she said. Bent also uses the name Michael Travesser.
She and Bent were allowed to talk briefly after the verdict. Montoya, who attended the meeting, said that was a promise the district attorney made to the girl before the trial.
Bent testified that Healed came to his house late at night in the summer of 2006, after he was in bed, and "asked to be skin-to-skin with me."
Bent said there was space between him and the girl and that he was wearing undershorts; the girl had testified she believed he was naked.
Bent was clothed when the older sister came to him in daylight hours a couple of days later, according to testimony.
Jeff Bent said he believed it was the "end of the road for the world" because of his father's conviction.
He sidestepped questions about whether the 45 or so church members would fast if Wayne Bent did while he was in prison. Church members had indicated last week that they would.
He also refused to say what would happen to the sect if Bent were imprisoned.
"Today we're going home. That's all I can tell you," he said.