Friday, February 3

Mexican megachurch leader jailed in US for more than 16 years for child sexual abuse | Mexico

The leader of the Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo was sentenced on Wednesday to more than 16 years in a California prison for sexually abusing young female followers.

Naasón Joaquín García, 53, pleaded guilty last week in Los Angeles superior court to three felonies on the eve of a long-awaited trial.

Prosecutors said García, who is considered the “apostle” of Jesus Christ by his 5 million followers worldwide, used his spiritual sway to have sex with girls and young women who were told it would lead to their salvation – or damnation if they refused.

Judge Ronald Coen, who called Garcia a sexual predator, said: “I never cease to be amazed at what people do in the name of religion and how many lives are ruined in the guise of a supreme being.”

The sentence came after nearly three hours of emotional statements by five young women García was charged with sexually abusing. They had eleven been his most devoted servants of him. But in court they called him “evil” and a “monster”, “disgusting human waste” and the “antichrist”.

“I worshiped my abuser,” said a woman identified as Jane Doe 4. “He used me over and over again like a sacrificial lamb taken to slaughter.”

García pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a child who was 15. In exchange, prosecutors dropped 16 counts that included allegations of raping children and women, as well as human trafficking to produces child pornography.

The victims objected to the plea deal, saying they only learned about it at the last minute and were not consulted. They implored Coen to impose a stiffer sentence but he said his hands were tied by the agreement.

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“The world has heard you,” he told them and their supporters. “I promise you that.”

Naasón Joaquín García, pictured here in 2018, leads a service at La Luz del Mundo in Guadalajara, Mexico. He has 5 million followers worldwide. Photograph: AP

The church, which is also known as the Light of the World, claimed in a statement that García pleaded guilty because he didn’t think he could get a fair trial.

“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. It repeated its support for him.

García’s grandfather founded the Guadalajara-based fundamentalist Christian church in 1926. García took over as “apostle” after his father, Samuel Joaquín Flores, died in 2014.

Patricia Fusco, supervising deputy attorney general, praised the victims for their bravery in standing up to García. She said their courage had saved others’ lives.

They [the victims] trusted him. They thought he was basically God on Earth,” Fusco said. “We know, of course, he’s not God. Not even close.”

Patricia Fusco, supervising deputy attorney general, lowers her head as victims of Naasón Joaquín García speak of the plea deal.
Patricia Fusco, supervising deputy attorney general, lowers her head as victims of Naasón Joaquín García speak of the plea deal. Photograph: Carolyn Cole/AP

The victims spoke of how their delight at being invited into a secret inner circle with García. They said they were called angels and told they were García’s property of him and that his wishes of him were godly commands and they should serve the Lord without question. Bible verses were twisted to make them comply, they said.

But they were also told they would be damned if they spoke out – and so would anybody they told.

  • In the US, call or text the childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. In the UK, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. Other sources of help can be found at Child Helplines International.

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