When does religion become a problem? When is too far, too far? For García’s victims, the line was crossed, got blurred, then disappeared altogether. Naasón Joaquín García, 53, the leader of the La Luz del Mundo megachurch, has been sentenced in a Los Angeles court to 16 years and eight months in prison after striking a plea deal, leaving his victims with tear-filled eyes one last time.
To his followers, García is known as “the Apostle.” The religious figure was facing nineteen abuse charges when he pled guilty on Friday, lessening his sentence a convenient three days before his trial was set to begin. The charges he admitted guilt of were two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a fifteen-year-old child.
A woman identified as Jane Doe 4 and labeled herself García’s niece testified, saying, “I worshipped my abuser. He used me over and over again, like a sacrificial lamb taken to slaughter.”
The plea not only masked the potential that the truth would be set free, but it also left García’s victims feeling not only deflated but depleted as well. They derailed the plea deal claiming they were not consulted and only learned about it at the last minute. They pleaded with the prosecutor, Coen, to inflict a harsher punishment, but he said the agreement tied his hands.
A fundamentalist Christian organisation, La Luz del Mundo (meaning The Light of the World in Spanish) was founded in Mexico by García’s grandfather, Eusebio Joaquín González in 1926. García took over as an “apostle” after his father, Samuel Joaquín Flores, died in 2014. Interestingly, Flores also found himself front and center of child sex abuse allegations in 1997. However, Mexican authorities never filed criminal charges.
Garcia was sentenced on Wednesday to sixteen years and eight months in a California prison. The sentence came following nearly three hours of the emotional testimonies from five of García’s victims. The five women were said to have been at one point Garcías’ “most devoted servants,” However, in their testimonies, the women described García as “evil” and a “monster,” “disgusting human waste,” and the “antichrist.”
In an effort to cover up the dirt thrust upon not only García’s name but also La Luz del Mundo megachurch. To combat the negative news, the church took to Twitter, not only supporting the defamed church leader but also suggesting that evidence against García had been fabricated and that he only accepted the plea deal “as the best way to protect the church and his family.”
The plea deal significantly changes the fate of the self-proclaimed religious leader from facing the potential of the death penalty and the condemnation of his Mexican megachurch to serving a sixteen-year sentence. The plea deal not only hastens victims from speaking out about the atrocities done to them but also expedites García’s return to his thrown of abuse.