A panel of the appeals court of California on Tuesday ordered a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to dismiss the case against the leader of La Luz del Mundo, a megachurch based in Mexico that was accused last year of crimes like child rape, other sexual acts against children and human trafficking.
The ruling of the California Second District Court of Appeals panel that ordered the judge George G. Lomeli to dismiss the amended complaint against Naasón Joaquin García occurred less than a year after the leader of La Luz del Mundo, 50, was arrested by the Los Angeles Airport Police.
The appeals court ruled that because Garcia’s preliminary hearing was not conducted in a timely manner, and that Garcia did not waive his right to have a preliminary hearing, the complaint filed against him had to be dismissed.
The California Attorney’s Office made procedural errors but can re-file the same charges against Naasón Joaquín García, who is being held without bond in Los Angeles. The prosecutor Xavier Becerra’s office has also not spoken, nor has it clarified whether to re-file the charges against the religious leader
Court order overturns two Los Angeles Superior Court orders denying multiple requests from the defendant’s attorneys to drop the charges, in September and October 2019.
Last February, Sochil Martín, a former member of La Luz del Mundo who is part of the witnesses in the criminal case, filed legal action against 10 members of the church, including Naasón Joaquín García.
It is not clear when he will be released since several judicial offices are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- Who is Naason Joaquin Garcia, the Light of the World church leader detained in California
- La Luz del Mundo church, whose leader is accused of sexual abuse of minors in the US
- Prosecutor’s office says three victims of La Luz del Mundo leader are girls from Los Angeles
García was detained without bail in July last year, when a judge who stated that the information provided by the alleged victims was “very detailed” and that there was a “risk of flight” on the part of Garcia, he ordered it.
Garcia was accused of 17 crimes, including forced rape of minors, forced oral intercourse, illegal sex, extortion, conspiracy, and possession of child pornography, along with the co-defendant’s Lark Ocampo, 37, Susana Medina Oaxaca, 25, and Azalea Rangel Meléndez, who was still being sought by the authorities.
It was not immediately clear if the appeals court decision would affect the case against the three women.
The state Attorney General’s Office alleged that the crimes occurred in southern California between June 2015 and June 2019.
Ashley Valdez, a representative of the evangelical church vehemently denied the charges against the man seen by his followers as an apostle of Jesus Christ.