LOS ANGELES — Remarks by the California attorney general regarding the arrest of the leader of a Mexico-based megachurch charged with human trafficking and child rape may have tainted a potential jury, defense attorneys said Friday.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra spoke at a news conference Thursday and described La Luz del Mundo leader Naasón Joaquín García as “sick” and “demented.”
“No law of California, no law of humankind and certainly no law of God would permit to occur what Naasón Joaquín García is alleged to have committed in this case against young girls and others,” Becerra said.
Attorneys Ken Rosenfeld and Allen Sawyer decried the language used to describe their client Joaquín García.
“Yesterday was a sad day for the criminal justice system in California,” Sawyer said.” “How is Mr. García’s supposed to get a fair trial?”
Joaquín García and two co-defendants were arrested in California this week, and a fourth remains at large. They face a 26-count felony complaint that alleges crimes including child rape, statutory rape, molestation, human trafficking, child pornography and extortion.
Becerra disputed the lawyers’ claims, saying in a statement Friday evening that “while we are going to vigorously prosecute this case, these defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”
Joaquín García was originally being held on bail of $25 million, but that amount was increased to $50 million — believed to be the largest ever set in Los Angeles County — after prosecutors argued the church’s millions of followers could raise the money and free Joaquín García, who they say might flee the country.