Judge denies dropping charges against Naasón Joaquín and the trial for alleged sexual abuse of minors begins on June 6

Almost three years after his arrest in California, a judge determined that the trial of the leader of the church The Light of the World should start next June 6 in a court in Los Angeles, where he faces 19 charges of sexual abuse of minors, child pornography, sex trafficking, rape, among other crimes.

With this decision, Judge Ronald S. Coen concludes a period of more than two years in which Naasón Joaquín García’s lawyers requested several postponements and even took the case to a state appeals court. In their latest strategy, they argued that the State Prosecutor’s Office used false evidence and edited text messages from the complainants to blame his client. That motion was denied on Monday.

The postponement from May 9 to June 6 was made due to another case that Naasón Joaquín’s lawyer, Alan Jackson, is litigating in this city. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 1.

The opinion of Judge Stephen Marcus, who analyzed a defense motion in the morning asking for charges to be withdrawn from the accused, is that the lawyers of the self-appointed ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’ could not confirm that the plaintiffs’ text messages were exculpatory of some crimes, such as the alleged rape of a teenager who was 15 years old when the events occurred.

Marcus said the only way to understand the context of those communications is to hear the complainants’ testimony, which will only happen at trial, not in preliminary hearings. Although the magistrate somehow reprimanded the state prosecutors for not delivering the Brady evidence or evidence favorable to Naasón Joaquín on time to the defense, he ultimately decided that they had not violated said rule.

Naasón’s lawyers had said that one of the accusers denied that she had had sexual relations with the pastor, because she reported that he did not use a condom once she was about to have sex with him. Judge Marcus’s conclusion is that this example is, in fact, “more incriminating.”

Naasón Joaquín is the grandson of the founder of La Luz del Mundo, a mostly Mexican congregation that boasts five million faithful in almost 60 countries. He has pleaded not guilty and the church compares his “unfair” trial to that of Jesus Christ. His attorneys indicated in a motion that they fear the 52-year-old pastor could face life in prison if convicted.

In a statement posted on its Twitter account, the church said: “We regret Judge Stephen A. Marcus’ ruling. The evidence presented in the motion filed on March 15 by defense attorney Alan Jackson is compelling.”

And he added: “We have full confidence that the time will come when the innocence and honorability of the Apostle Naasón Joaquín will be proven because the lie prevails only until the truth comes to light.”

The legal defense alleges that some complainants they set him “a trap for money” and that prosecutors misrepresented their written conversations to make the case bigger. They stated that, after reviewing a flood of 500,000 text messages, 26,000 emails, 630,000 photos and videos, 6,500 phone call logs and 7,200 internet searches on seven cell phones, they had not found a single trace that they were victims of sexual trafficking and coercion through the spiritual path.

“In fact, the devices reveal that the complainants lived their lives, participating in all the regular activities at work, school, romance, etc. There is not a single indication of a kind of ‘spiritual coercion’ that the prosecution has affirmed in court, ”says the 211-page motion that was analyzed this Monday in court.

Defense attorney Calen Mason showed the judge some of the text messages in question, such as the one the witness identified as “Jane Doe 4” wrote to her husband telling him that a prosecutor “says she can help us with the payment.” But prosecutors explained that it is financial aid through a crime victim assistance program. Judge Coen accepted the version of the prosecutors.

According to the magistrate, some of these text messages could be exaggerated or imprecise, understanding that they were written by adolescents who would have been victims of abuse and sexual trafficking of the ‘Apostle’.

Judge Marcus considered that the communications in which they talk about having sex, drug use, an alleged petty theft and their doubts about the teachings of the church, should be part of the evidence; however, he said that removing them would not affect the jury’s verdict.

The “harassment” of the complainants

State prosecutors also responded in a request that those text messages from the ‘Jane Does’ would confirm the crimes of Naasón Joaquín. They denied, on the one hand, having fabricated evidence and, on the other, they denounced that the defense sent a judicial document to the press that contained private conversations of four of the five complainants with the purpose of intimidate them and contaminate the jury’s verdict.

“The Prosecution believes that many of these messages were exfiltrated by the defense, not because they believed the communications were exculpatory or admissible (as evidence), but because they wanted to use them to do exactly what the Prosecution fears: harass and intimidate plaintiffs in this case. The actions of the defense in this regard, such as the manipulation of their messages, taking them out of context and misrepresenting the dates, are worthy of reprimand”, stresses the agency in the motion.

This Monday, state prosecutor Patricia Fusco stated that they had to rescue one of the complainants who was in Mexico “because Garcia’s people followed her with weapons wherever she went.”

Fusco told the court that the defense’s motion calling for Naasón Joaquín’s charges to be dropped was “the last attempt to avoid a trial in this case.”

The accusation assures that three minors, identified as Jane Doe 1, 2 Y 3, they were invited to be part of a “special” group that met the church leader whenever he visited Los Angeles. Later they were asked to dance in scantily clad clothes, participate in orgies and pose nude in hotels and other places in the county. the co-defendant lark ocampo She would have been in charge of the girls and was following the orders of the minister, according to the government.

Ocampo, a 39-year-old American, pleaded guilty to four counts and is expected to testify against Naasón Joaquín. She’s in a women’s jail in Lynwood. Her sentencing is scheduled for October 12. Who is considered the main accomplice of the pastor, she has been interviewed in said prison by detectives from the Prosecutor’s Office, who have shown her evidence of the case on a laptop, according to court documents.

The Prosecutor’s Office compares the case of Naasón Joaquín with that of other powerful men accused of sexual abuse. That is why one of the highest profile criminal proceedings for dependency.

“Rarely a day goes by without a similar story in the news of someone leveraging their position of power to commit sexual crimes against vulnerable people within a culture that encourages and enables abuse. Garcia’s crimes were not unlike the well-known cases of Harvey Weinstein (Hollywood), Jeffrey Epstein (society and politics), high-ranking members of the Catholic Church (religious institutions), and Larry Nassar (Olympic sports). a motion filed by state prosecutors in mid-April asking for the trial to proceed.

The detectives have testified in the Los Angeles court that among the main evidence they have against Naasón Joaquín there are videos with suspected child pornography material that they found on the iPhone and iPad that were seized from him when he was detained upon arrival at the Los Angeles airport on June 3, 2019. That same afternoon, police officers went to an East Los Angeles resident where he was staying and seized other electronic devices and fake credentials, agents say.

At the time, Judge Ronald S. Coen warned that the jury selected for this case would necessarily see images of “child pornography” and demanded that the identity of the complainants be protected. Coen, who once said that he has presided over dozens of criminal trials in which he imposed death sentences, believes the trial would last eight weeks.

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Judge denies dropping charges against Naasón Joaquín and the trial for alleged sexual abuse of minors begins on June 6