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Criminal Rape Case Against La Luz Del Mundo’s ‘Apostle’ Dismissed

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This picture taken on August 9, 2017 shows the leader of the Church of the Light of the World, Naason Joaquin Garcia, walking among his parishioners in Guadalajara, Mexico. (Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images
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The criminal case against a Mexican megachurch leader on charges of child rape and human trafficking was dismissed today on procedural grounds by a California appeals court.

Naasón Joaquín García, the self-proclaimed “apostle” of La Luz del Mundo, or The Light of the World Church, has been in custody since June.

He was arrested based on accusations made by three girls and one woman in Los Angeles County who told California’s Department of Justice they were abused by Garcia between 2015 and 2018. The California Attorney General’s office claimed Garcia used his power as the leader of the Light of the World Church to cooerce teenage girls into sex acts.

But the appeals court ruled that because García's preliminary hearing was not held in a timely manner, the complaint filed against him must be dismissed.

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“This is a good day for justice,” said Alan Jackson, Garcia’s lead attorney. “This is a long overdue recognition that the government has violated Mr. Garcia’s constitutional right to a speedy trial and reasonable bond.”

Throughout the pre-trial proceedings, Garcia has denied wrongdoing. He has also remained the spiritual leader of La Luz Del Mundo, with full backing from church officials. La Luz Del Mundo is estimated to have as many as 5 million members around the globe, and dozens of temples here in Southern California.

Garcia is currently being held without bail in Los Angeles. It is not clear when he will be released.

Garcia has three co-defendants in his criminal case, but it’s unclear if their cases will also be tossed out.

In February, a former church member from Los Angeles filed a federal civil lawsuit against the church and García, accusing Garcia and his father of manipulating and sexually abusing her for years.

Martin’s attorney, Deborah Mallgrave, says Tuesday’s court opinion addresses a procedural technicality, but doesn’t judge Garcia’s guilt or innocence.

“It does nothing to change the fact that for years, as the leader of the La Luz del Mundo, he sexually, physically and emotionally abused hundreds of minors and adults,” Mallgrave said

The California Attorney General's office did not respond to KPCC’s request for comment.

MORE ON THIS CASE:

This story will be updated.