The Latest: Lawyer blasts $50 million bail for church leader
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Latest on the arrest on child rape charges of Naasón Joaquín García, the leader of the La Luz del Mundo church (all times local):
An attorney for the leader of a Mexico-based evangelical church says his client’s $50 million bail on charges of child rape and human trafficking is “outrageous” and unreasonable.
No pleas were entered Wednesday at a hearing for Naasón Joaquín García, the head of La Luz del Mundo, and two followers in Los Angeles. The judge left García’s bail at $50 million and ordered them back to court Monday for arraignment.
García’s bail had been raised from $25 million to $50 million Tuesday after investigators completed more search warrants.
García answered the judge’s questions through a Spanish interpreter while his co-defendants responded softly in English.
His family waved to him as he was being led out of the courtroom before a bailiff admonished them. About two dozen family members and congregants came to the hearing.
California’s top prosecutor is seeking additional potential victims in a child sex abuse case filed against the leader of the Mexico-based church La Luz del Mundo, which claims millions of followers in many countries.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra has scheduled a news conference Thursday in Sacramento to ask any survivors of sexual abuse to contact the state Department of Justice if they have information relevant to the case.
Church leader Naasón Joaquín García and three followers are named in a criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he and two of the co-defendants are expected to be arraigned Wednesday.
A spokesman says Garcia remains the church’s spiritual leader and calls the charges slander and defamation.
The Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo church says its so-called “apostle” arrested in California on charges of human trafficking and child rape remains the spiritual leader of the group. It claims to have 5 million followers in 58 countries.
Church spokesman Silem García said Wednesday that Naasón Joaquín García is still the church’s spiritual guide despite his arrest in Los Angeles and expressed confidence in his innocence.
Silem García called the charges “slander” and “defamation.”
Naasón Joaquín García and three co-defendants face a 26-count felony complaint with allegations that range from human trafficking and production of child pornography to rape of a minor.
The charges detail allegations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County.
Silem García and Naasón Joaquín García are not related.
The leader of the Mexico-based La Luz del Mundo church with branches in the U.S. has been charged in California with crimes involving human trafficking and child rape.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office said Tuesday that Naasón Joaquín García and a follower of the church, Susana Medina Oaxaca, 24, were arrested Monday after landing at Los Angeles International Airport,.
Around 1,000 worshippers gathered at the headquarters of La Luz del Mundo in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Tuesday evening to pray for García as he was held in Los Angeles on $25 million bail.
García, 50, and three co-defendants face a 26-count felony complaint with allegations that range from human trafficking and production of child pornography to rape of a minor. The charges detail allegations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in Los Angeles County.