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Criminal Justice

La Luz Del Mundo Megachurch Leader Sentenced To 16 Years In Prison For Sexual Abuse

A view from Garica from the chest us as he sits in a courtroom. He's wearing an orange jumpsuit and looks sternly away from the camera.
Naasón Joaquín García, the leader of a Mexico-based evangelical church, appeared for a bail review hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 15, 2019.
(Al Seib
Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
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A judge in Los Angeles sentenced the leader of a Mexico-based megachurch who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing three girls to 16 years in prison on Wednesday.

Naasón Joaquín García, the 53-year-old leader of La Luz del Mundo church, worked out a plea deal with prosecutors days before his trial was to begin.

At the sentencing hearing in L.A. Superior Court, several young women pleaded with the judge to set aside the agreement, according to the L.A. Times.

García was facing multiple charges before pleading guilty to two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a child.

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One of the victims said she was ready to face García at trial and was “deprived of that right.” She called for the “maximum sentence” for García.

The judge called the García a sexual predator and apologized to the women, saying his hands were “tied.” But he assured them that they had been heard by “the world.”

A statement from the church alleges that evidence in the case has been “suppressed” and “doctored.” It says García didn’t think he could get a “fair and just” trial so he took the plea deal to “minimize his prison sentence in order to regain his freedom.”

The sentence comes after a case against the leader was dismissed on a procedural basis in April 2020. García was initially charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse, for which he pleaded not guilty, including possession of child pornography.

La Luz del Mundo, or the Light of the World church, is a Pentecostal Christian religious group that was started by García’s grandfather in Guadalajara, Jalisco in Mexico nearly a century ago.

The sect boasts millions of members around the world, including multiple locations in Los Angeles, and is considered one of Mexico’s largest evangelical churches.

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