Sunday, August 18, 2013

Religious Group Leader's Conviction For Sexual Contact With Minor Upheld

In State of New Mexico v. Bent, (NM App., Aug. 15, 2013), the New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of the leader of a New Mexico religious community for criminal sexual contact with a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to the court:
Defendant was the leader of a religious group, and his convictions were based on unclothed experiences with two teenage girls who were members of the community, which he claimed were purely spiritual healings....
Among the numerous arguments that the court rejected in affirming Wayne Bent's conviction was an assertion by defendant that his counsel was ineffective by failing to raise a defense under New Mexico’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

UPDATE: The court issued a substituted opinion on Aug. 26.