The leader of the megachurch La Luz del Mundo was charged in a string of phony sexual assaults by California prosecutors who fabricated victim text conversations and lied to the court about their evidence, defense attorneys claimed in a pretrial brief.
Naason Joaquin Garcia, referred to as the apostle of Jesus Christ, has been in jail for nearly three years awaiting trial on dozens of charges pertaining to the grooming and rapes of teenage girls who have grown up in his congregation. The church is headquartered in Guadalajara, Mexico, and boasts millions of members around the globe.
It was at the church’s Los Angeles campus where Garcia, 52, met his victims, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. Through charging documents and court hearings, prosecutors laid out a case resembling something akin to the cults of religious leaders Jim Jones or Warren Jeffs with young girls forced to endure never-ending sexual servitude in the name of God.
But Alan Jackson, Garcia's attorney, says it never happened and claims he has the texts of purported victims to prove it. Jackson meticulously detailed the texts belonging to Jane Does 1, 2, 3, and 4 throughout his 211-page brief, showing how prosecutors cut and pasted various conversations to create felonious sexual assault scenarios against his client.
“This was a setup by (former) Attorney General Xavier Becerra,” Jackson told the Washington Examiner.
With the trial set to begin in a month, prosecutors finally turned over the Jane Does’ 70,327 texts, which span the alleged crime time period of 2015 to 2019, to the defense. State and federal law both require prosecutors to divulge evidence to the defense. Jackson said he had been asking for the texts for three years and that prosecutors told the judge on several occasions they had complied.
“The depth and scope of the prosecution’s misconduct is immense,” Jackson wrote. “The prosecution actively suppressed any evidence contrary to its case and achieved this by altering and manipulating the evidence.”
Prosecutors claimed the victims were brainwashed into complying with Garcia’s demands or would face retribution from God. But texts show discussions that the girls bad-mouthed the church, were rebellious at home, were sexually active, drank alcohol, used drugs, shoplifted, and associated with gangs, the brief says.
In one exchange, Jane Doe 2 concocted a story for her boyfriend so he wouldn’t break up with her over allegations that she was having sex with her brother. Jane Doe 3 proposed that they make up a story that Jane Doe 2 had been raped in order to garner sympathy. The pair exchanged texts preparing a narrative and delivered it to the boyfriend, who didn’t believe it, the brief states.
The brief says State Department of Justice Special Agent Joseph Cedusky utilized only the text portion in which Jane Doe 2 says she was raped and blamed it on Garcia.
Cedusky did this numerous times to shore up his case, including one instance in which he cut out 200 texts from an exchange while cutting and pasting whatever he wanted, the brief claims.
“He removed potentially exculpatory texts revealing that the Jane Does apparently engaged in sex acts for pay, expressed amorous feelings for older men [and] had little respect for the church,” the brief adds.
In another exchange, according to the brief, Cedusky edited a conversation in which the girls were talking about oral sex with their boyfriends and made it appear as if the chat was with Garcia.
Prosecutors were so desperate to obtain evidence that they offered Jane Doe “help” with the immigration status of her husband and made a down payment on a house in exchange for her testimony, the brief alleges.
“It is impossible to fathom how experienced and seasoned government officials and officers of the court engaged in this level of concealment, alteration and suppression of evidence while presenting a narrative to the court that they knew was false,” Jackson wrote.
Garcia is being held in lieu of $90 million bail. His church has stood behind him, saying in a statement that the brief is shocking.
“We continue to pray for and trust in the judicial system of the United States, knowing that it guarantees the constitutional rights of all individuals,” the church said.
The California Attorney General's Office responded to the filing, saying, "The case is ongoing and we'll respond to the defense's motion in court."