LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A California appeals court panel Tuesday ordered a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to dismiss the case against the leader of a Mexico-based megachurch who was charged last year with rape and other sexual acts against children.
The ruling by the panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal that ordered Judge George G Lomeli to dismiss the amended complaint against Naason Joaquin Garcia came less than a year after the 50-year-old leader of La Luz del Mundo was arrested by Los Angeles Airport police.
The appeals court ruled that because Garcia’s preliminary hearing was not held in a timely manner — and he did not waive his right to one — the complaint filed against him had to be dismissed.
Last July, Garcia was ordered held without bail with a judge noting that information provided by the alleged victims was “very detailed” and that there was a “risk of flight” by Garcia, who was initially jailed in lieu of $25 million bail and then $50 million bail.
Garcia was charged with 17 counts, including forcible rape of a minor, forcible oral copulation, unlawful sexual intercourse, extortion, conspiracy and possession of child pornography.
He was charged along with co-defendants Alondra Ocampo, 37, Susana Medina Oaxaca, 25, and Azalea Rangel Melendez, who was still being sought by authorities.
It was not immediately clear whether the appellate court’s decision would affect the case against the three women.
The state Attorney General’s Office alleged that the crimes occurred in Southern California between June 2015 and June 2019.
Ashley Valdez, a representative of the evangelical church, vehemently denied the allegations against the man viewed by followers as an apostle of Jesus Christ.
In a statement posted to the church’s Facebook page Tuesday, Garcia’s attorney, Alan Jackson, said the panel “has ruled in favor of justice today, as it has ordered the dismissal of a case that should not have been processed.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)