The Latest: Prosecutors fined in Mexican church leader case
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Latest on the prosecution of a Mexican megachurch leader charged with child rape and human trafficking (all times local):
A Los Angeles judge has sanctioned two prosecutors for failing to turn over evidence in a case against a Mexican megachurch leader charged with child rape and human trafficking.
Superior Court Judge Teresa Sullivan fined deputy attorneys general Amanda Plisner and Diana Callaghan $5,000 each on Thursday, saying they violated a court order to hand over material to lawyers for Naason Joaquin Garcia and his two co-defendants.
Garcia is the self-proclaimed apostle for La Luz del Mundo. He and his co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to allegations of sexually abusing three girls and a woman in Los Angeles County.
Their lawyers declined to comment on the sanctions and the attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sullivan told prosecutors they must turn over the evidence by Friday morning.
The leader of Mexican megachurch La Luz del Mundo will return to court for a preliminary hearing on child rape and human trafficking charges.
Naason Joaquin Garcia is being held without bail after his arrest in June on suspicion of sexually abusing three girls and a woman in Los Angeles County. He and his two co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.
A judge could rule Thursday if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.
Garcia is considered the church’s apostle, and the victims were allegedly told they would be going against God if they didn’t acquiesce to his sexual demands.
His defense attorneys have raised concerns about potential evidence manipulation and argue there is a conspiracy, saying a complaining witness has tried to frame their client.