Jan 3, 2023
Following DLG Founder Samuel Dordulian’s recent blog on the subject, an update in the case against Mexico-based megachurch leader, Naason Joaquin Garcia, came Tuesday during a preliminary hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court. Judge Ronald S. Coen found sufficient evidence to allow the case against Garcia to proceed, ordering him to stand trial on 23 criminal charges including forcible rape of a minor. Garcia also faces charges related to forcible oral copulation of a person under 18, unlawful sexual intercourse, committing a lewd act on a child, extortion, conspiracy, and possession of child pornography.
Garcia is currently in jail in lieu of $90 million bail.
Charges against Garcia’s two co-defendants, Alondra Ocampo, 37, and Susana Medina Oaxaca, 25, were also ordered to proceed to trial. A fourth defendant, Azalea Rangel Melendez, currently remains at large and is being sought by authorities. Melendez is charged with one count each of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation.
The alleged sex crimes are believed to have taken place in Southern California between June 2015 and June 2019. Garcia was arrested last year at Los Angeles International Airport while disembarking from his private jet.
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Garcia proclaims himself to be the “apostle” of Jesus Christ. He has been the official leader of the La Luz del Mundo evangelical megachurch since 2014 following the death of his father. The church has a reported five million followers worldwide.
The prosecution’s first witness was Troy Holmes, a special agent from the California Department of Justice. The Los Angeles Times reported that during testimony Holmes described videos taken from Garcia’s iPad and iPhone, which were seized at the time of arrest. According to the Times, Holmes stated the videos “showed a young male wearing a suit and a black mask that covered his eyes. A woman [then] entered the frame, undressed him, and performed oral sex on him.” Holmes also asserted that a witness identified the woman from the video as the boy’s aunt.
Survivors who have come forward to disclose alleged abuse at the hands of Garcia and his associate currently remain unidentified. Diana Callaghan, a deputy attorney general, indicated survivors have been subjected to “threats and intimidation.” The defense for Garcia objected to the prosecution keeping survivors, as well as many key witnesses, unnamed, citing the need to cross-examine each individual. However, Judge Coen ruled Garcia didn’t have an immediate right to confront his accusers because the proceedings were merely a preliminary hearing, not a trial.
According to former Deputy District Attorney, Samuel Dordulian, the testimony of the survivors and witnesses will be critical to the prosecution’s ability to prove the case.
“Not having survivors testify at preliminary hearings can traditionally open up the prosecution to questions of concern. However, given the allegations of threats and intimidation, it’s certainly understandable why they would choose to keep both survivors and witnesses unnamed during the preliminary hearing. Their eventual trial testimony, which is always difficult given the reliving of such traumatic events, will be essential to a conviction.
As Dordulian wrote earlier this month regarding his time as a sex crimes prosecutor in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, “although I was able to help hundreds of survivors, I also saw firsthand the difficulty involved in coming forward to face one’s attacker. Such an act takes an indescribable amount of courage, and survivors deserve not only a fierce advocate in an attorney, but empathy and support throughout the legal process.”
The case against Garcia and his associates is reportedly extensive, with multiple underage survivors naming Garcia and his La Luz del Mundo associates. Authorities believe there are numerous additional survivors who have yet to come forward.
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If you were sexually abused by Naason Joaquin Garcia or one of his associates, our SAJE Team (Sexual Abuse Justice Experts) is available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about disclosing a sex crime. We are here to provide you with support and, if needed, legal representation in a civil lawsuit against Garcia and La Luz del Mundo. Survivors who choose DLG receive four-tiered representation featuring:
Garcia, Ocampo, and Oaxaca are due to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court for arraignment on September 1. DLG will continue to provide updates related to the case and trial proceedings.
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