Leader of Mexico’s largest evangelical church sentenced to 17 years for child sex abuse

(Photo: Unsplash/Jorge Aguilar)

Naasón Joaquín García, the leader of Mexico’s largest evangelical church, was sentenced Wednesday to nearly 17 years in prison for sexually assaulting three underage girls from his flock.

García pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of forced oral copulation involving minors and one count of lewd acts involving a 15-year-old child. A statement released by the California Department of Justice on Wednesday said García had been sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison. He will also have to register as a sex offender for life.

The 53-year-old headed the La Luz Del Mundo congregation based in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, which has several locations in the United States and Mexico.

“Today’s sentencing of Naasón Joaquín García is a critical step forward for justice,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “While it will never erase the hurt and trauma he caused as leader of La Luz del Mundo, this sentence makes it clear that the aggressors – no matter who they are – will be held accountable. The assault sex is never acceptable.”

“My heart goes out to everyone affected by the horrific actions revealed during this case. At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to defend survivors and fight abuse,” he added.

While sentencing García on Wednesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen called him a “sexual predator,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

“I’ve been a judge for a long time,” he said. “I will never cease to be amazed at what some people do [in the name of] religion.”

The California Department of Justice noted that its investigation into García that began in 2018 culminated in his arrest in 2019. Church officials Susana Medina Oaxaca and Alondra Ocampo were also arrested for their role in leading the leader of the Church for several years in Los Angeles County, dating back to at least 2015.

Oaxaca was found guilty of assault likely to cause grievous bodily harm. She faces a year of probation in addition to the time she has already served in prison and under house arrest. She must also undergo six months of psychiatric consultation. Ocampo, who pleaded guilty to three counts of contacting a minor for the purpose of committing a sexual offense and one count of forcible sexual penetration in 2020, is expected to be sentenced at a later date.

In a statement to the Christian Post on Wednesday, church officials, who continue to support their leader, said García was coerced into accepting a deal with the attorney general’s office primarily because he didn’t believe he could get a fair trial.

“Since his arrest in 2019, [García] was the subject of lawsuits in which evidence was suppressed, withheld, doctored and altered,” the church said in the statement. “After the defense finally obtained this evidence, the Court decided that the defense would not be allowed to use the documents at trial, preventing the defense from effectively cross-examining the complaining witnesses and challenging their claims. »

Church leaders alongside García cite a 211-page petition filed by his legal defense team urging the California attorney general’s office to dismiss the case as a cause for concern over fabricated evidence. Earlier this year, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus declined to dismiss the case against the megachurch leader.

The March motion alleges that California Department of Justice Special Agent Joseph Cedusky selectively used information from thousands of text messages to further the criminal narrative against Garcia, while the prosecution actively delayed the prosecution. access to the entire cache of text messages, which they claim included exculpatory evidence, for the defense.

The defense says previously undisclosed text messages made it appear that some of García’s accusers were sexually active, angst-filled teenagers who engaged in sex with other men, shoplifted, consumed drugs. drugs, had mental health issues and were talking about having sex with the church leader. for money.

“The scale of the government’s misconduct was so vast that it cannot be easily quantified, and the cascading effect of the consequences of these actions is immense,” García defense attorney Alan wrote. Jackson, and his team. “These included, among othersMr. Garcia being forced to undergo a mock preliminary hearing based entirely on lies and fabricated fiction in the minds of investigators and prosecutors.”

The church argues that because the court would not allow García to use specific evidence in his defense, he would be at a disadvantage if he went to trial.

“Without the right to use evidence, there is no right of defence. Without the right to use evidence, there can be no fair trial. [García] had no choice but to accept with great difficulty that the agreement presented is the best way forward to protect the church and its family,” church officials said.

“While he respects the law and the community, he does not believe that the trial he would receive under these conditions would be fair and just. He wishes to spare the church and his family weeks of baseless public accusations, including threats to their physical well-being,” the statement continued.

The church said: “We publicly show our support for [García]; our confidence in him remains intact in full knowledge of his integrity, conduct and work.”

They vowed to “continue to do the works of Jesus Christ, which [García] taught us, always seeking to help our neighbour.”

“[García] will continue to serve the church. It is a path that God has placed before him for a reason, as he did for the apostle Paul. [García] will work on this path with his faith in God and will continue to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ: to be the Light of the world,” the church concluded.

Barry F. Howard