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Mexican Megachurch Leader Sentenced To 16 Years For Sexually Abusing Followers
Naasón Joaquín García, the leader of Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo (Light of the World), was sentenced to 16 years by a Los Angeles judge after pleading guilty to three counts of the sexual abuse of minors in his following.
Naasón Joaquín García, the leader of Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo, will spend more than a decade and a half behind bars for sexually abusing and forcing a number of young, female followers into sexual servitude under the guise of religion.
García, 53, who pleaded guilty last week to sexual abuse, was dealt a 16-year sentence in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday, prosecutors announced. He pleaded out to a trio of charges, including two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a child who was 15 years old, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com. His plea was filed days before the trial was slated to begin, according to prosecutors.
The sexual abuse allegations date back to at least 2015. García was first arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in 2019.
“As to the defendant, I say: You are a sexual predator,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen told the court during his sentencing on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
During the case’s pre-trial proceedings, prosecutors had accused García of using his position of authority within the church, known in English as "Light of the World," to impose his sexual will on a number of young women. They alleged that he promised his victims salivation if they obliged his sexual advances — and threatened them with eternal damnation if they rejected him, or spoke out about the cycle of abuse.
Millions of the church’s followers regard García as the “apostle” of Jesus Christ.
“I never cease to be amazed at what people do in the name of religion,” Judge Coen added at his sentencing. “And how people’s lives are ruined in the guise of serving a supreme being.”
The judge’s animated statements Wednesday came after approximately three hours of gut-wrenching testimony from five women who were sexually victimized by the megachurch leader.
“I further want to tell all the Jane Does that the world has heard you, I promise you that,” Coen stated.
During the victims’ emotional testimony, the group of women who gave their statements anonymously described García as a “monster,” the “anti-christ” and an “evil” person comparable to “disgusting human waste.”
“I worshipped my abuser,” stated Jane Doe 4, who said she was García’s niece, according to the Associated Press. “He used me over and over again like a sacrificial lamb taken to slaughter.”
“Being called an apostate was the worst of the worst, and you would go to hell no matter what,” Jane Doe 2 also said.
In the years since García’s 2019 arrest, his accusers have reportedly faced retribution from the megachurch’s followers, who have rallied around its spiritual leader.
“Today’s sentence for Naasón Joaquín García is a critical step forward for justice,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said in prepared remarks on June 8. “While it will never undo the harm and trauma he caused as the leader of La Luz del Mundo, this sentence makes it crystal clear that abusers — no matter who they are — will be held accountable."
"Sexual assault is never acceptable," he added. "My heart goes out to all those affected by the horrific actions brought to light during this case. At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to stand up for survivors and fight back against abuse.”
García’s defense team had previously denied prosecutors’ assertion that the disgraced megachurch leader had spiritually coerced his victims for the purposes of sexual gratification.
“It is a fantasy seemingly invented out of whole cloth,” defense attorney Alan Jackson wrote in a court filing, according to the Associated Press.
Jackson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment regarding his client’s sentence when contacted by Oxygen.com via telephone and email Thursday afternoon.
Light of the World, which also lamented García’s sentence, released a statement reiterating their support for the embattled spiritual leader.
“The Apostle of Jesus Christ has had no choice but to accept with much pain that the agreement presented is the best way forward to protect the church and his family,” the church said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com on Thursday afternoon.
The church said García took a plea deal because he claimed his forthcoming trial had been rigged against him.
“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,” the statement added. “He wishes to spare the church and his family from weeks of unfounded public accusations, including threats to their physical well-being.”
La Luz del Mundo was founded by García’s grandfather in Guadalajara in 1926, a spokesperson for the church said. In 2014, García assumed the title of “apostle” following the death of his father, Samuel Joaquín Flores. The church has grown to encompass approximately 5 million followers across the globe, per the Associated Press.
According to prosecutors, García will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.