GA v. Eligio Bishop: Polygamist Cult Leader Trial

Posted at 5:58 PM, March 1, 2024

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (Court TV) — A jury deliberated for several hours before finding a man accused of heading up a polygamist cult guilty on all charges. Eligio Bishop was convicted on charges of rape, false imprisonment, and sending sexually explicit electronic transmissions without consent.

Hours later, Judge Stacey Hydrick sentenced Bishop to life without the possibility of parole plus ten years and ordered him to not have any contact with the victims, calling him a ‘master manipulator’ as she handed down the sentence.

Eligio Bishop, who is accused of running a polygamist cult.

Eligio Bishop, who is accused of running the polygamist cult Carbon Nation, faces trial in Georgia. (DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office)

Bishop, 41, had been held without bond in DeKalb County Jail since his April 14, 2022 arrest. He was taken into custody on allegations that he posted revenge porn of a former female follower.

Preferring the monikers “Natureboy” and “God,” Bishop had been accused of forcing members of his alleged online cult, “Carbon Nation,” to do manual labor and sleep in tents as they globe-trotted between Honduras, Costa Rica, Hawaii and Atlanta. They were also required to follow strict codes regarding nudity, polygamy, and adhering to a vegan diet consisting solely of fruits and vegetables, reported WXIA. They weren’t allowed to bathe and had to defecate at the base of a tree. They also had to give Bishop their financial information before they were deigned worthy of learning his so-called teachings. Prior to forming “Carbon Nation,” he worked as a model, stripper, and barber, reported CBC.

Bishop, who switched attorneys at least three times since 2022, had requested bond several times but has been repeatedly denied on the grounds that he presents a flight risk and is likely to intimidate witnesses. Some of his alleged victims have gone on the record to state that Bishop sexually and emotionally abused them.

Midway through the trial, Bishop attempted to fire his attorney and only retained him after the judge refused to allow him to find new counsel, saying he would have to represent himself pro se.

Bishop has a previous arrest record. In 2020, he and 20 others were arrested for violating Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine order. Bishop spoke to the AP after his arrest, saying he knows he’s been described as a cult leader but that he thought the comparison “was kind of cool.”

Additionally, Bishop has been deported from several countries in Central America.

Before his arrest, Bishop represented “Carbon Nation” on YouTube and Instagram accounts that had tens of thousands of followers. Posts included music videos, self-help tips, and instructional videos. Followers were urged to donate money via CashApp.


DAY 6 – 3/1/24

DAY 5 – 2/29/24

  • The defense called 6 witnesses before resting their case.
  • Members of Carbon Nation had outburst protesting Bishop’s innocence. Each member told their story about joining Carbon Nation, their practices and recalling the night of March 24, 2022.
  • The jury heard closing arguments
  • The defense built an argument around a lack of evidence despite having thousands of videos from Carbon Nation. Brooks also claimed the state was attacking Bishop’s character and making the case about the “cult” and not about the actual charges.
  • The state ended strongly by playing a video of Eligio Bishop speaking claiming “all b*s belong to the 3 and I will have my way with you as I see fit.”
  • WATCH: Eligio Bishop Leaves Court After Objecting to Judge’s COVID-19 Status
  • WATCH: Alleged Cult Leader Eligio Bishop Goes on Instagram Live During Trial

DAY 4 – 2/27/24

  • The day in court was abbreviated after Judge Stacy Hydrick revealed she had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The defense made a motion to dismiss counts 3, 4 and 5, which represent the revenge porn counts.
    • Judge Hydrick denied the motion.
  • Eligio Bishop told the court that he wanted to fire his attorney, Robert Booker, and hire another attorney.

DAY 3 – 2/26/24

  • A detective with the Dekalb County Police Department testified to an interview he did with Eligio Bishop that the jury got to hear.
    • In the interview, Bishop repeatedly says that he did not rape the victim in the case, and that he only posted sexual videos for educational purposes.
    • WATCH: Polygamist Cult Leader Murder Trial: Jury Hears Cult Leader’s Police Interview
    • Bishop told the detective that he was God and that he’s going through this for a reason, and that he’s happy about the press because it pushes his brand and allows him to get his message out.
  • Prosecutors called two former members of Carbon Nation to testify.
  • The director of victims’ services testified to power and control dynamics in abusive relationships.
  • The state rested its case.

DAY 2 – 2/23/24

  • Three Former Carbon Nation members corroborated the alleged victim’s account of being threatened, harassed and called back into the group home when she tried to leave. No one witnessed the alleged rape.
  • The former members described the personal circumstances in their lives that drew them to Bishop’s promise of communal off-the-grid living that put morals over vanity and desire. What they found instead was a cult of personality in Bishop that worsened over time as Bishop developed a god complex and demanded absolute subservience to him, including sexual servility from women.
  • The jury heard from an expert in cults who said Bishop and Carbon Nation fit the profile of a “destructive authoritarian group.” Rick Alan Ross outlined traits of a cult that later came up in testimony of the former members as they described Bishop’s leadership of Carbon Nation. On cross, Bishop’s lawyer emphasized Ross’ lack of formal training and suggested that his prior knowledge of Carbon Nation and Bishop biased his opinion of them.
  • The group broadcasted their lives daily on social media under Bishop’s direction. The jury saw a video of Bishop growling into the camera: “I am not a man. I am not a woman. I am god. You cannot conceptualize me… All you b*****s belong to me. All you b*****s belong to the three and I will have my way with you as I see fit.”
  • One of the former members was a woman who testified that Bishop took her virginity against her will and coerced her into sex throughout the four years she spent with him: “It felt like something I had to do because he was my god, my lord and savior.”
    • The woman, who was in college when she joined, said she with high hopes for a collective experience with other Black people that would offer a positive vision in the wake of 2020 racial reckoning. She teared up as she acknowledged that it never was quite what she’d hoped for because of Bishop’s obsession with power: “Looking at it now, I don’t think anyone was happy. We wanted it to be what we wanted it to be.”
    • Bishop is not charged with a crime against the woman but prosecutors called her to prove Bishop engaged in a pattern of sexual violence and coercion against his women followers, including the alleged victim for whom the charges are based.
  • On cross, Bishop’s defense tried to frame members as consenting adults who knowingly and willingly adhered to his Bishop’s rules. He emphasized that all members participated in social media, suggesting that the alleged victim consented to being filmed doing sex acts, which is the basis for three “revenge porn” counts Bishop faces.

DAY 1 – 2/22/24

  • Bishop rejected a last-minute plea deal for 30 years after waffling over the prospect of facing life in prison without parole at trial on the rape charge.
  • Both sides delivered opening statements.
    • Assistant District Attorney Michael Coveney said Bishop preyed on young people seeking spiritual guidance and used violence to control them. What started as a consensual relationship turned into manipulation and abuse, culminating in the night Bishop pressured the woman into unwanted sex when she tried to leave, Coveney said.
    • Bishop’s lawyer, Robert Brooks, urged jurors to not let the polygamist group’s unconventional lifestyle distract them from the questions at hand: did the alleged victim have consensual sex with Bishop on the night in question, did Bishop or other members of his group hold her in the group home against her will, and did she consent to letting Bishop record and post online sex videos of them?
    • Brooks said the woman described the encounter as “making love” in an interview with a YouTuber, and she did not accuse Bishop of “rape” when she reported him for posting revenge porn until police asked if the encounter was consensual.
  • The alleged victim in Bishop’s charges spent hours on the stand describing how she and other Carbon Nation “wives” lived in service to Bishop to the point she was “brainwashed” and didn’t realize she was being physically and emotionally abused.
    • On the night of March 24, 2022, the woman said she tried to leave the group’s home in Decatur after Bishop berated her and directed members to hit her. When she went to bid farewell to Bishop in the hopes of leaving on good terms, she relented to his demands for sex over her protests, believing it was the only way he would let her leave.
    • The woman acknowledged that the alleged “revenge porn” videos were videos she had let Bishop post online at an earlier point in time as “sex education.” She said felt like she didn’t have a choice but to let him post them, and that she didn’t consent to him reposting them the second time after she left.
    • The woman said she used the term “making love” in the YouTube interview because that’s what Bishop told her to call all forms of intercourse, plus, she was still processing what had happened to her.
  • The Dekalb police officer who responded to the woman’s 911 call reporting Bishop for posting sex videos said she did not say that Bishop raped or imprisoned her.