LOS ANGELES (AP) — The leader of La Luz del Mundo church has been sentenced to 16 years and eight months in a California prison for sexually abusing three girls.
Naasón Joaquín García was sentenced Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court after pleading guilty to three felonies on the eve of a long-awaited trial.
García, who is considered the “apostle” of Jesus Christ by his 5 million worldwide followers, had vigorously fought the charges until he abruptly pleaded guilty last week.
Prosecutors say he used his spiritual influence to have sex with several female followers. García had faced trial Monday on 19 counts that included child rape allegations.
Judge Ronald Coen called García, 53, a sexual predator.
“It never ceases to amaze me what people do in the name of religion and how many lives are ruined in the guise of a supreme being,” Coen said.
Coen denied requests by the victims to impose a stiffer sentence, saying his hands were tied by the plea agreement.
One by one, several young women who said they had been sexually abused by the leader of Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo implored a judge Wednesday to sentence Naasón Joaquín García to the maximum for stealing their innocence and wrecking their lives.
They spoke of how their happiness at being accepted into one of García’s inner circles quickly spun into an out-of-control nightmare of rape and other sexual abuse that they were told would lead to their salvation — or damnation if they refused.
“I worshipped my abuser,” said a woman identified as Jane Doe 4, who sobbed as she spoke about García as a “monster.” “He used me over and over again like a sacrificial lamb taken to slaughter.”
García, who is considered the “apostle” of Jesus Christ by his 5 million worldwide followers, had vigorously fought charges that included child rape, until abruptly accepting a plea deal on the eve of trial.
The women he admitted to abusing and at least one other accuser were united in their criticism of the plea deal that was offered by prosecutors from the attorney general’s office.
They said they had looked forward to García facing a trial in the hopes he’d be locked up for life. Now that option was gone and they pleaded with Judge Ronald Coen to impose at least a 20-year sentence, telling him that García had made a mockery of the court and told his followers he only pleaded guilty because he …read more