“This year I have not ceased to be amazed at what people do in the name of religion. Sorry, my hands are tied. Lawyers did what lawyers do. Jane Does, the world listened to them. The family members who abandoned them should be ashamed. (Naasón Joaquín García) is a sexual predator.”
Judge Ronald S. Coen used these words on Wednesday (06/08) before lowering his tone to read the sentence of the church leader La Luz del Mundo: 16 years and 8 months in prison, as the defendant’s lawyers had agreed with the California attorney general’s office, in exchange for him pleading guilty to three of the 19 charges he faced.
The Jane Does — a judicial pseudonym for the women who came together to denounce the self-proclaimed “apostle of Jesus Christ” and on whose testimony the criminal case that ended up not going to trial was based — hugged each other while still sitting and began to cry.
A guard led Joaquín García through the side door of the California Superior Court in Los Angeles.
The rest of the room was awkwardly silent.
It was not the end many in the room had hoped for in the court case that began on June 3, 2019 with the arrest of Joaquín García and one of his assistants, Susana Medina Oaxaca, at the Los Angeles airport.
Everyone who spoke during Wednesday’s hearing had asked the judge to impose the maximum penalty allowed by law. They expected a life sentence or multiple life sentences in a row.
“Judge, I ask that you hear my voice, that of my fellow survivors. This man and this church are far more dangerous than you can imagine. They have destroyed hundreds of lives and will continue to do so. I beg you with all my heart, for please, please, please, extend your sentence to the fullest. Do this to set an example, to save other victims.”
This was the request of Jane Doe 5, the last to make the appeal that had been repeated by different voices, but with similar arguments. With that, she ended her intervention, in which she spoke in detail about “seven years of abuse”.
‘My rapist, my tormentor’
“The abuse started slowly,” said the long-haired, pink-dressed young woman.
“I was 21 years old, but naive to the world, a virgin. I had a boyfriend who had only kissed, because everything else was forbidden. I was told that I had been chosen by Naasón for an additional blessing.”
It was the first time she was required to wear lingerie for the leader of the congregation.
The situation quickly escalated, the young woman said, and the day soon arrived when the church’s “impostors” — as she calls them — asked her to give Joaquín García a gift. It was customary for the faithful to grace their leader, but this time it had to be “the most precious thing she had”: her virginity.
“I remember wondering why I was having such a negative physical reaction when what was happening to me was so wonderful. But I never consented to have sex with you, nor in a million years would I have, if it weren’t for the brainwashing.” what they put us through,” she said, addressing her “rapist, executioner”, despite the judge warning them not to do that, to talk to him all the time.
Naasón Joaquín García — Photo: Getty Images via BBC
The prosecutors listened with their heads down. Defense attorney Alan Jackson intermittently looked at her head on, the judge squinted at the defendant.
She went on to describe the scene in which she lost her virginity at the hands of what she believed to be God on Earth. It was violent, she said.
“There was blood everywhere. You and your impostors knew it was a horrible experience for me. You made two of you grab me so I wouldn’t run away. Do you think that’s consent?”
She explained that for years Joaquín García used her as a sex slave and, when not, made her his personal maid.
“I was told cleaning his bathroom was a blessing.”
One day she was sent to Mexico to marry “a complete stranger”.
“I felt sold like cattle.”
And in that country things became even more distorted.
“They kidnapped me, locked me up 24/7 with their private guard. I was terrified. I thought they were going to kill me,” she said.
She said she went to the US Embassy to get help.
“His power is so great in Jalisco — the Mexican state where La Luz del Mundo was born and where its headquarters are, the so-called Hermosa Provincia, in Guadalajara — that even the FBI had a hard time getting me out of there. Because I’m an American citizen, because if not, I don’t know what would have happened.”
“When I was rescued, I thought I was safe, that my suffering was over. But it was just beginning.”
In a steady voice, she recounted how she began to receive death threats from members of La Luz del Mundo, and that everyone distanced themselves from her.
“They started saying we were whores and that’s what we wanted. Their lawyers used our traumas against us.”
These traumas led her to see therapists.
“But I was told they weren’t prepared to handle such complex cases.”
She ended up in a mental health facility.
“It’s my daughter who makes me follow. He took everything from me. He’s the antichrist.”
It was not the only time during the hearing that this word was used to describe him. They also called him a “pedophile”, “rapist”, “criminal” and “predator”.
And even “uncle”. It was Jane Doe 4, the first of the five to speak. She was also dressed in pink and couldn’t stop caressing her pregnant belly.
“Naasón, my rapist, my tormentor, is my uncle,” he said.
During sex “you told me to call you uncle, which was sexy. Now, here, does it still sound like that to you? You’ve known me since I was born, you’ve watched me grow. You’re supposed to protect me. But you chose to take advantage of me. me. It was your choice, not mine. I just surrendered.”
“Naasón and this church ruined my life, every aspect of it,” he said in a phrase also repeated by other “survivors” of the leader of La Luz del Mundo, as they call themselves.
“I dedicated my life to serving him. I was vulnerable and naive, and he took advantage. Said I was his property. He used me over and over. I was raped and abused, day after day, year after year.”
“Do you remember that time…?” continued Jane Doe 4, describing situations such as when, according to her, they immobilized her on the floor so that she could not resist having sex, when they forced her “until she vomited”, or when she screamed and cried over the abuse and other members of La Luz del Mundo laughed.
“Remember that time you told me to bring my sister? ‘She’s only 14,’ I replied. ‘You should have brought her to me sooner,’ you told me.”
“In case you’ve forgotten, I’m here to remind you.”
He said he was taking the opportunity to speak his truth — something the plea deal did not allow, as there was no trial — and to make the public understand that “saying no to the apostle was impossible.”
“It was equivalent to saying ‘I have no faith’, which means dying in hell.”
“We were indoctrinated to believe this,” Jane Doe 2 said in her speech, wearing a pale blue dress and a nose ring.
“Naasón, I’m talking to you: you destroyed me. You destroyed my life, you changed my perception of reality. You are a coward. We want the world to know what a horrible monster you are.”
‘Many pastors are pedophiles’
“This has been going on for over 100 years and it has to stop. Many pastors are pedophiles. It’s disgusting and sad. I thought church was a safe place for me, but it was my worst nightmare,” added Jane Doe 2.
And he pointed to Alba Monsalvo López: “My pastor’s wife, who tried to convince me that everything was fine and that she still protects Naasón.”
Jane Doe 3, nervous and tearful, said similar words to Alondra Ocampo, who was co-accused in the case, pleaded guilty to four counts in October 2020 and is awaiting sentencing.
During the hearing, the role of other members of La Luz del Mundo came to light, such as Abner Nicolás Menchaca Tristán, who was present in the room, in the last row, wearing a mask.
Pastor and member of the so-called Council of Bishops, he was in charge of giving the message to the congregation after the agreement reached on Friday with the Public Ministry. Jane Doe 4 made the room listen to him.
Jane Doe 1 did not speak during the hearing, but a statement written by her was read. “Naasón, you are a disgrace to humanity”, was one of her phrases.
‘Mom, I can’t be here’
After describing the abuse suffered by Naasón, telling how he stole her childhood and made her drop out of school, Jane Doe 3 recalled the day he was arrested at the Los Angeles airport.
“My mother woke me up to go to church with her to pray for my rapist, for my tormentor. They were all crying, screaming, praying for Naasón. My mother started it too. I know her actions were the result of brainwashing, but she wasn’t feeling pain for me, her daughter,” he explained.
“I told her, ‘Mom, I can’t be here, I have to go to school.’ I’ll never forget that moment. She didn’t even look at me.”
The mother of another victim spoke during the hearing. “What did I do for you to rape my daughter?”, she said to Joaquín García, who after hours of session was still not moving.
Other family members also asked to speak. The message from Jane Doe 2’s brother was read — “our world has turned upside down” — and from Jane Doe 3’s mother — “my daughter, because of her (Naasón), several times wanted to kill herself.”
Jane Doe 4’s husband addressed those in attendance: “When this is over and everyone goes home to their loved ones, I’m going to stay with my wife and watch her break down and pick up her bits one by one.”
All rejected the agreement reached by Joaquín García’s lawyers with the Public Ministry, despite the explanations of the deputy attorney general of California, Patricia Fusco, who opened the session:
“No amount of punishment will ever erase what they’ve been through. They’ve been exceptionally brave. They’ll be scarred for the rest of their lives, and we know that, but we hope this deal helps them. Everyone at the Justice Department hopes it does. have a happy life.”
From there, the decision was already made, as the judge said.
The journalists present did the math: 16 years and 8 months. “He’s been in prison for three years and, with good behavior, how long will he be out?”, one of them asked.