The megachurch leader was sentenced on Wednesday following allegations of sexual abuse from several young female followers who claimed he made them his sex slaves.
Naasón Joaquín García, who is the leader of the Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in a California prison on Wednesday after he was accused of sexual abuse by several victims. The 53 year old suddenly pleaded guilty to three felonies in a Los Angeles Superior Court right before his long-awaited trial began.
According to CBS News, García on Friday pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible oral copulation involving minors and one count of a lewd act upon a child aged 15. This was to ensure that prosecutors dropped 16 counts involving rape of children and women and human trafficking to produce child pornography.
García's victims objected to the plea deal, claiming they were only informed of it at the last minute and were not even consulted. The victims asked Judge Ronald Coen, who called Garcia a sexual predator, to issue a stiffer sentence but he said he could not diverge from the agreement.
Victims Label the Mexican Megachurch Leader the 'Antichrist'
During the trial, five young women who were sexual abuse victims of Garcia called the Mexican megachurch leader "evil," a "monster," "disgusting human waste," and the "Antichrist." One woman who said she was Garcia's own niece, said that she "worshiped" her "abuser" and that she "used" her "over and over again like a sacrificial lamb taken to slaughter," the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, supervising deputy attorney general Patricia Fusco praised the victims for their bravery in speaking out against Garcia, whom they "trusted" and believed to be "basically God on Earth." Fusco added however that the Mexican megachurch leader is "not God, not even close. Anyone who still believes he's God is complicit and they're supporting a child molester."
Former Members of La Luz del Mundo Want Greater Consequences for Disgraced Megachurch Leader
Despite being sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison, Garcia's punishment appears to be dissatisfactory to many, especially detractors and former members of La Luz del Mundo. According to the Religion News Service, Sochil Martin, who filed a lawsuit against the church and a dozen of its leaders over decades of abuse, pushed for a tougher sentence for Garcia during a news conference just a day before the trial.
Martin claimed that she was a victim of Garcia, saying, "I believe that we won't be able to sleep or have peace unless we know that this man will be in jail all of his life."
But Martin isn't alone. La Luz del Mundo former deacon Hector Vera also called out the justice system by standing outside the courthouse holding a sign that read "Life Sentence For Naason." He also called the Mexican megachurch leader a "false prophet" who "deserves the full weight of the law."
A Change.org petition has been set up calling for a maximum sentence for Garcia. To date, more than 3,800 signatures have already been gathered.