Judge Ronald Coen, who will preside over the trial of leader of the La Luz del Mundo church, detailed this Wednesday the rules under which the criminal proceedings will take place: he ordered that only one person from the public and one reporter enter the court due to the pandemic, demanded that the identity of witnesses be protected and He warned that it will be inevitable to show images of alleged “child pornography” to the jury.
The magistrate reiterated that the trial of Naasón Joaquín García, who faces charges of sexual abuse of minors, human trafficking and child pornography, will begin on November 12 with the selection of the jury in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. The evangelical pastor pleaded not guilty.
The so-called ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’, who prosecutors say used three women to recruit girls who performed scantily-clad provocative dances and ended up being sexually abused, will come to his trial with fewer charges. Judge Stephen Marcus, who last week reviewed the motions filed by the defense, withdrew four counts of extortion and aggravating bodily harm on two counts of forcible rape of a minor and illegal sexual relations.
But he had 19 serious crimes left And, if a jury determines that there is enough evidence to find him guilty, Joaquín García would face a sentence of several years behind bars. He has been in a Los Angeles jail for almost 17 months, since he was arrested at the Los Angeles airport in June 2019.
The defense failed on Wednesday to get Judge Marcus to agree to eliminate two other charges (9 and 10), which allege that his client forced a minor identified as ‘Jane Doe 3’ to have sex with him in early 2018. Based on the testimony of the Prosecutor’s Office Troy Holmes, the lawyers affirmed that this adolescent was never abused by the evangelical leader, but that she saw the co-defendant Susana Medina Oaxaca in a sexual act with Joaquín García.
“There is no evidence” of the crime, stated attorney Alan Jackson. However, Judge Marcus concluded that upon reviewing the “context” of Officer Holmes’ statements “it is clear” that he was referring to the minor, so he decided to maintain those charges.
Once Joaquín García’s trial is concluded, that of his assistant Oaxaca, a young woman who lives in San Diego, California, will continue. Against him there are two counts of sexual abuse against the minor ‘Jane Doe 3’. She has been free since last year after posting a $ 150,000 bond.
Without revealing the identity of the witnesses
At Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Coen conceded each of the prosecutors’ concerns before trial. Approved, for example, your request for prohibit lawyers from divulging the identity of witnesses and alleged victims. Only they will be able to use that information to put together their legal strategy, the magistrate ordered them.
Further, the judge prevented the defense from manually checking the cell phones of the five accusers Nor will they be able to reveal the identity of other people mentioned in the investigations, but who will not give their testimonies before the jury.
Regarding the impediment to analyze the phones of the ‘Jane Doe’, lawyer Caleb Mason claimed that it affects the ability to defend his client. “There is a right in the Constitution for a defendant to review witness statements posted by the government. We have not been able to do it because the government has not provided any of the statements that are in those devices, “he said.
Prosecutors also achieved that the plea agreement remain private that last month he signed Alondra Ocampo, considered the main accomplice of Joaquín García. She accepted to have committed four crimes and her sentence was scheduled for April 22, 2021. It is possible that she will testify against the leader of La Luz del Mundo, seeking to further reduce her punishment.
“The concern is that this information is disseminated outside the legal defense team because, due to the situation of Mrs. Ocampo, now she is also in danger,” warned prosecutor Jeff Segal.
The official asked the judge how they will make the jury see the evidence on the charges of possession and production of child pornography, while abiding by social distancing within the court. The magistrate explained that they will use two televisions that are in court and warned that, although showing such material is very delicate, “it will be visible” under the consideration of the prosecutors.
Due to the pandemic, the Superior Court of Los Angeles this month established that the maximum capacity in the courts is 26 people. Therefore, only one person from the public (probably a relative) and a reporter will enter the court during the trial of the leader of La Luz del Mundo.
At the request of the defense, one more hearing was scheduled for November 9.
In photos: This is the exotic animal ranch built by the former leader of La Luz del Mundo
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