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September trial date set in Luz del Mundo sex abuse case

Naason Joaquin Garcia sits in an orange L.A. County jail shirt and a mask.
A September trial date has been set for Naason Joaquin Garcia, the leader of the Guadalajara-based La Luz del Mundo church.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A judge on Monday set a Sept. 27 trial date for Naason Joaquin Garcia, the head of La Luz del Mundo church, who faces a slew of sex abuse charges.

Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen also ordered Susana Medina Oaxaca, who will stand trial alongside Garcia, to appear in court in downtown Los Angeles then.

An attorney from the California attorney general’s office, which is prosecuting the case, estimated that the trial could last five to seven weeks.

Earlier in the hearing, before the September date was set, Alan Jackson, Garcia’s attorney, had said he was “not prepared to announce ready for trial” due to discovery issues and asked for “a little bit more time.”

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Garcia, 51, who is known among his followers as “the apostle,” is being held in lieu of $90 million bail and faces counts that include human trafficking, forcible rape and forcible oral copulation of a minor, and possession of child pornography.

He has been charged along with Alondra Ocampo, 38, and Oaxaca, 26, in a case in which prosecutors allege that girls engaged in sexual activity with Garcia under duress from both women and that the girls were told that if they went against Garcia’s desires they were going against God.

Garcia has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The alleged crimes are said to have occurred between June 2015 and June 2019 in Los Angeles County.

In court papers, prosecutors allege that Garcia was served by an exclusive group of young girls within a larger group of congregants that assisted with household chores at his East L.A. home. Ocampo, they said, carried substantial influence at the Luz del Mundo church nearby and was in charge of the exclusive group typically composed of girls about 15 years old.

They allege the group was known as “the dancers,” and its members would dance or perform skits for Garcia while in lingerie or partially nude.

Ocampo, who is being held without bail, pleaded guilty to four counts Oct. 13. These include three counts of contact with a minor for a sexual offense, involving three Jane Does, and one count of forcible sexual penetration, involving a fourth Jane Doe. Oaxaca, who has maintained she is innocent, has been released on bail.

Ocampo’s attorney and the attorney general’s office have not disclosed the terms of Ocampo’s plea or said whether she will testify.

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The Guadalajara-based La Luz del Mundo church has consistently backed Garcia since his arrest in June 2019, saying in a press release Monday that “his innocence will be demonstrated and he will be acquitted.”


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