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Thousands of messages from the victims of Naasón Joaquín that the prosecutors did not read: a stumbling block prior to the trial of the leader of the La Luz del Mundo church | News Univision United States

A few months after the arrest of the leader of the La Luz del Mundo church, Naason Joaquin Garcia, In 2019, the California Prosecutor’s Office confiscated the cell phones of four of the five young women who claim to be victims of the crimes of rape, sexual assault and production of child pornography.

The mobile phones have been protected since then, but until the end of August 2021 one of the prosecutors in charge of the case discovered that he had not yet read thousands of text messages sent and received by the complainants, was revealed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Due to this failure, the trial of Naasón Joaquín has been postponed twice since September 2021. The new scheduled date for jury selection is June 6.

This Friday, the defense filed a procedure before the State Court of Appeals for the Second District in which it asks to review whether the detention of the self-appointed ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’, which has lasted for almost three years, is valid. So far there are no changes in the Los Angeles court that is handling his case. naason He has pleaded not guilty, stating that the accusations are false.

The error of the State Prosecutor’s Office was revealed in the hearing last Monday, when the judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Stephen Marcus, decided not remove charges from the ministeras requested by his defense.

At the hearing, the magistrate asked two prosecutors several times why defense attorneys were not given multiple text messages considered evidence favorable to your case (also known as Brady), a legal obligation of the prosecution.

In their 24-minute intervention, the prosecutors accepted after lengthy explanations that for a long time they did not review the written talks of four anonymous whistleblowers, that the government identifies as jane doe. He was an agent of the California Department of Justice, the only one who selected what texts should be in a report that is part of the evidence.

Naasón Joaquín’s lawyers affirm that agent Joseph Cedusky reviewed and selected over 70,000 text messages which were reduced to 2,221 communications in his opinion relevant that he placed in a report. But in said report, claims the defense, several private conversations are omitted in which they allegedly talk about their daily lives and how they doubted the dogmas of the church.

The judge’s questions

For Judge Marcus, this and other evidence they would not exactly take weight away from the accusations about the leader of La Luz del Mundo and they would not change the verdict of the jury. However, he found it necessary to share such disclosures with the defense as part of due process. At one point, after raising his voice and hitting his desk, he called the prosecutors’ argument “weak.”

– All these text messages that I have, that they gave me. Who in the attorney general’s office read them and determined there was no Brady material (favorable to the defense) before the preliminary hearing? Judge Marcus asked, tapping his hand twice on the copies of the messages on his desk.

– Agent Cedusky reviewed all text messages before the preliminary hearing, responded prosecutor Diane Callaghan.

– And then you trusted him. Did he tell you there was no Brady material? the judge questioned.

– No. He prepared report 79 and marked as evidence what Brady considered relevant or material.

– Don’t you think it would have been a better idea for a lawyer to read the materials?

– It would have been, your honor, but the difficulty we had was that we had hundreds of devices or at least a hundred devices, and it was bulky for us to have lawyers review all these devices. A lot of the material was in Spanish (…) So we needed translators to review all these devices. So we leave the whole review of the device in the hands of the agents.

Callaghan explained that for more than a year the copies of all the messages written by the jane doe and the rest of the evidence has been in a laboratory in Commerce, in Los Angeles County. He criticized that the legal defense team rarely went to review said evidence.

But Judge Marcus asked him how Naasón Joaquín’s lawyers would know that they should go to the laboratory to analyze the written talks of the young women if the prosecutors did not tell them that there was information there that could interest them. “You cannot create a strong impression that there is no Brady material and then expect the defense to exercise due diligence,” he noted.

The arguments of the defense

There were 31 days left before Naasón Joaquín’s trial began, then scheduled for September 27, 2021, when prosecutor Jeffrey Segal discovered that there were several text messages from the complainants that, although he did not consider exculpatory, they should give them to the lawyers of the ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’. The Prosecutor’s Office delivered copies of the conversations, divided into five categories, and agreed to postpone the trial for May 9, 2022.

At that time, this was the church’s statement: “The Apostle’s defense team requested a postponement because just thirty days before the start of the trial, the attorney general’s office revealed that, for the first time, they had begun to review thousands of text messages. concerns among some accusers regarding their drug use, sexual relationships, and a specific intent to set up a defendant for money.

At Monday’s hearing, defense attorney Calen Mason showed the judge some of the text messages in question, such as the one the witness identified as ‘Jane Doe 4’ wrote to her husband telling him that a prosecutor “says she can tell us help with the payment. But prosecutors explained that it is financial aid through a crime victim assistance program.

Mason claimed that prosecutors hid evidence for two years and that there were “edited and altered” messages that changed the narrative to inflate the charges against his client. “You don’t charge people criminally based on hiding evidence,” he said in court. “This is not how cases are processed in the United States (…) What has been done to Mr. Garcia is wrong,” he emphasized.

At the end of the hearings on Monday (in the second the new date for the beginning of the trial was established), the church warned in a statement that will appeal the judge’s ruling. “We have full confidence that the time will come when the innocence and honorability of the Apostle Naasón Joaquín will be proven because the lie prevails only until the truth comes to light,” he said.

Prosecutors, for their part, denied deliberately fabricating or hiding the evidence. According to them, the defense released these messages to the press with the aim of intimidating the witnesses.

“They have taken those messages out of context. They have added a language that does not exist. They have exaggerated the number of messages that say what they say. They have misrepresented the time of those messages. And, by the way, your honor, that this court must know that there have been very serious security problems in this case, “said prosecutor Patricia Fusco.

Judge Marcus’s conclusion is that they are not exculpatory the text messages that the defense did not receive on time and said that the only way to understand the context of those communications is to listen to the testimony of the complainants, which will only happen at trial, not in preliminary hearings.

He also understood the effort of the prosecution to protect the identity of the accusers and, despite his questioning, he did not consider that the prosecutors incurred a violation of the Brady rule.

“The testimony of the complainants is necessary to know the context of the text messages. You have to understand that the complainants may not be telling the truth in these text messages, they may be exaggerating, they may be hiding things. There are all sorts of reasons why one texts her friends about a certain subject. So a lot of the text messages are ambiguous,” Marcus said.

“So I just wanted to say, generally speaking, I wasn’t too impressed to take a single line of a text message or two lines of a text message, and say, ‘Aha! This shows that he did not commit the sexual acts of which he is accused,'” the judge added.

“The court also wants to point out that it finds that the vast majority of the evidence cited by the defense as exculpatory was accusatory because it was collateral, confusing, ambiguous, because there is a very important contextual aspect in many of the text messages,” he concluded.

People close to the complainants told this medium that so many postponements of the trial have affected them emotionally and demand that the process be carried out without further setbacks.

While, the faithful of La Luz del Mundo have been waiting several times for the return of Naasón Joaquín to Guadalajara, because that is what the shepherds have told them. On Monday they were confident that he would be released that same day.

“I know you are leaving / brother you will soon return / there is no sadness in our being / you will rejoice in your return”, says a song inspired by the absence of its highest pastor. The subject has become popular in the church.

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