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A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has thrown out several counts of extortion against the head of La Luz del Mundo church in a case where prosecutors say the leader used his base to groom underage victims for his sexual pleasure.

Citing insufficient evidence, Judge Stephen A. Marcus on Wednesday ruled to dismiss four counts of extortion against Naason Joaquin Garcia. He argued that the state attorney general’s office had failed to show that Garcia had threatened to disgrace his alleged victims if they didn’t perform sexual acts.

The judge also dismissed enhancements against Garcia for great bodily injury on counts of forcible rape of a minor and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, saying that there lacked evidence that an injury had resulted from the sexual act.

But Marcus otherwise denied a motion by Garcia’s defense attorneys at Wednesday’s hearing in downtown L.A. to dismiss before trial the case against Garcia, a man known amongst his followers as the “apostle” of Jesus Christ. Garcia is being held on $90-million bail and has pleaded not guilty to counts that include human trafficking, forcible rape of a minor, and possession of child pornography since his arrest in June 2019.

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