DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A staggering $50 million bail set for the leader of Mexico-based church La Luz del Mundo is believed to be a record amount in Los Angeles County.
Naasón Joaquín García, 50, and his co-defendants returned to Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday.
They face a 26-count felony complaint that alleges crimes including child rape, statutory rape, molestation, human trafficking, child pornography and extortion. The charges detail allegations involving three girls and one woman between 2015 and 2018 in L.A. County.
Garcia was shackled, handcuffed and wearing a jail jumpsuit - a far cry from the reverence accorded to him in his mega-church.
Believers say he is the voice of Jesus Christ.
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A $50 million bail amount will remain, according to a judge. It is a record amount in L.A. County. Bail was also high for the alleged accomplices. It was set at $25 million for Alondra Ocampo and $5 million for Susana Oaxaca. One suspect, Azalea Rangel Melendez, is still at large.
Garcia's lawyer pledged to knock down the bail amount, arguing that it is punitive and should not be based on the 1 to 5 million followers who might donate money to get him released.
"I don't think it's fair that just because he has supporters, that we set the bail at a higher amount," said defense attorney Allen Sawyer.
Meantime, the prosecutor also wants an order to protect witnesses who may be troubled with testifying against the powerful leader.
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"The tightknit nature of the community that he is a leader of, there are significant concerns regarding intimidation, harassment of all the witnesses and victims involved in this case," said state prosecutor Amanda Plisner.
The defense counters, saying that church members are now drawing fire. The church shared video of a protest at the East Los Angeles Temple over the weekend.
There's no word yet on how the criminal case is impacting plans to expand the ministry by building a Light of the World city 45 miles northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. Garcia had been leading a fundraising drive to make it a reality.
The bail hearing and the arraignment have been pushed back to June 21. The defense said it needs more time to gather all the paperwork they say proves that Garcia is not a wealthy man and would not be a flight risk.
$50M bail for La Luz del Mundo leader is believed to be record in L.A. County
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