NM attorney general appealing sect leader ruling

July 8, 2011 - 12:44 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico attorney general's office says it will appeal a ruling that tossed out the sexual misconduct convictions of the leader of a small religious sect.

The Court of Appeals last week ruled a grand jury's term had expired months before it returned an indictment against Wayne Bent, and that a district judge didn't have the power to extend it. A three-judge panel of the court sent the case back to district court and ordered the 70-year-old Bent released from custody.

Attorney General Gary King's office told the Albuquerque Journal it will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Bent is a self-described Messiah and leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church in northeastern New Mexico near Clayton.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2008 for criminal sexual contact with two of teenage followers. His attorney is seeking his release after last week's ruling.