The Head of an evangelical church in Mexico which has over 5 million followers around the world was sentenced to 16 years and 8 months in prison for sexually abusing three girls on Wednesday.
Last Friday, Naason Joaquin Garcia, the self-styled apostle and leader of the church La Luz del Mundo, (Light of the World) which is a Guadalajara-based church in Mexico, pled guilty to two counts of forcible oral copulation involving children and performing an indecent act on a child.
Garcia, 53, pleaded guilty three days before his trial on 23 felony counts of sex crimes against children, including rape, human trafficking conspiracy, and child pornography.
Separate plea agreements have been agreed with two additional church members charged with Garcia.
Several of his accusers, all of whom were known in court only as Jane Doe to not reveal their identities, and are now young adults, denounced the plea agreement as excessively mild.
They claimed that they were not consulted in the arrangement Garcia struck with the California attorney general’s office.
The church, which has openly supported Garcia, stated on Twitter:
“Our faith in him remains intact with full knowledge of his integrity, his conduct, and his work”
Garcia took a plea agreement because he feared he wouldn’t get a fair trial, and that evidence in the case had been “suppressed, denied, doctored, and manipulated,” according to the report.
Prosecutors reduced the majority of the accusations he faced, including the most serious ones, in exchange for his guilty plea in a case that came from allegations of five victims from mid-2015 to early 2018.
‘Betrayal by our God’
All five stated they felt robbed of the opportunity to confront Garcia more completely in victim-impact statements presented during Wednesday’s hearing.
Garcia sat with his back to his accusers as each tearfully voiced their grief at him.
“You betrayed us, we looked up to you, you were our god. You’re nothing but a predator and abuser”
As she swallowed back cries, Jane Doe No. 3 stated.
Garcia was avoiding accountability, according to another complainant, by claiming through the church that he acquiesced to a plea deal under duress and was falsely accused.
Garcia, who was clothed in orange jail clothes, didn’t say anything during the hearing and was carried away in handcuffs when it ended.