Prosecutor says La Luz Del Mundo church leader may face new charges

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A preliminary ruling Friday by a Superior Court judge will keep the American leader of La Luz Del Mundo international church in custody for now.

The bail for Naason Joaquin Garcia is set at $50 million, a deviation from the scale the court typically relies on.

Garcia and his co-defendants entered a plea of not guilty.

He is revered by his church as the voice of Jesus Christ. The state prosecutor argued that Garcia's power factors is why he should not be released on any amount of bail.

Serious sex crimes against four minor girls are alleged.

"One minor reported that she had lost her virginity to defendant Garcia. Another reported that defendant Garcia held her hands against the bed and had sex with her while she cried," said prosecutor Amanda Plisner.

Then there is the potential risk to other girls within the mega-church. Their parents are among the estimated 1 to 5 million members of the Guadalajara, Mexico-based operation who, according to the prosecutor, would not protect their daughters but instead offer them to the 50-year-old leader.

"That is because these girls' families have been taught by the church that defendant Garcia leads, have been indoctrinated to believe that what constitutes abuse under the law is a blessing within the church," said Plisner.

The defense calls the bail amount unconstitutional and says that other witnesses can contradict the accounts of the alleged victims.

"I am happy to put a witness list of 25,000 people, if the courts wants to hear that, of all these women of the same age group who spent one-on-one time... nothing but appropriate, nothing but kindness and nothing but conduct of tremendous and absolute rectitude," said defense attorney Kenneth Rosenthal.

About the leader's wealth and potential for flight, the prosecution says the church has access to private jets and landing strips in Mexico. In addition, the prosecution says they have 60 devices with pictures and videos seized from Garcia and his co-defendants which must still be analyzed.

Further arguments are set for July 15.
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