Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus refused Monday to dismiss a case against controversial megachurch leader Naason Joaquin Garcia, who is accused of multiple sex crimes, including making sex videos with minor girls from his flock at La Luz Del Mundo or Light of the World.
On March 15, Garcia’s defense attorney Alan Jackson and his team argued in a 211-page motion that the case brought against Garcia by the California Attorney General’s Office alleging that he groomed and raped teenage girls from his congregation is based on fabricated evidence.
Marcus agreed that the California Attorney General's Office should have turned over some evidence to Garcia's attorneys before an August 2020 hearing, but said the defense had "not met the materiality requirement'' for dismissal, MyNewsLa.com reported.
In a statement posted on his church’s Facebook page on Monday, the megachurch’s pastor’s followers noted: “We have full confidence that the time will come when the innocence and honorability of the Apostle of Jesus Christ, Naason Joaquin, will be demonstrated, because the lie prevails only until the truth comes to light.”
The 52-year-old preacher was arrested in the summer of 2019 at the Los Angeles International Airport. He and several co-defendants are being tried separately. They were charged with human trafficking, production of child pornography, forcible rape of a minor and other felonies committed between 2015 and 2019.
A group of girls was allegedly told that if they went against Garcia’s desires, “they were going against God,” according to the criminal complaint.
In their March motion, Garcia’s defense team said they reviewed more than 70,000 texts messages and that some of Garcia’s accusers were sexually active, angst-filled teenagers who lied, shoplifted, used drugs, drank alcohol, struggled with mental health and spoke of having sex with the church leader for money.
The March motion also claims that California Department of Justice Special Agent Joseph Cedusky selectively used information from the thousands of text messages to further the criminal narrative against Garcia while the prosecution actively delayed access to the entire cache of text messages to the defense.
“The magnitude of the government’s misconduct was so vast that it cannot easily be quantified, and the cascading effect of consequences from these actions is immense,” Jackson and his team wrote. “These include, inter alia, Mr. Garcia being forced to sit through a mockery of a preliminary hearing based entirely on lies and fiction created from whole cloth in the minds of investigators and prosecutors.”
Garcia has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and is facing a $50 million bail, believed to be the highest ever imposed in L.A. County. The pastor’s lawyers have long argued the pastor is “100% innocent.”
The pastor is awaiting trial set for June 6 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.