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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The United States district court has given controversial Davao City-based doomsday preacher Apollo Quiboloy and several of his associates another year to prepare for their trial in Los Angeles, California.
“The judge overseeing the case last month issued a ruling that delayed the trial to March 19, 2024,” US Attorney’s Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) media relations director Thom Mrozek told Rappler on Saturday, December 10.
Mrozek said Quiboloy had nothing to do with the court order that moved the trial date because he “has never made an appearance in this criminal case in Los Angeles.”
Mrozek’s remarks came a day after the United States announced it has imposed sanctions on Quiboloy and a “diverse array” of more than 40 individuals and entities across nine countries in connection to corruption and human rights abuses.
The US Department of the Treasury and the US Department of State announced the move in separate statements on Friday, December 9, on the occasion of International Anti-Corruption Day and on the eve of International Human Rights Day observed on December 10.
A federal grand jury in California indicted Quiboloy and eight others on November 18, 2021 for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; sex trafficking of children; marriage fraud; fraud and misuse of visas; bulk cash smuggling; promotional money laundering; concealment of money laundering; and international promotional money laundering.
The leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) and two of his co-accused – Teresita Tolibas Dandan and Helen Panilag – are on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most wanted list.
In a November 3, 2022 ruling, US District Court, Central District of California, Western Division Judge Terry Hatter Jr. moved the trial of Quiboloy and his associates from March 21, 2023, to March 19, 2024.
The decision came after five of Quiboloy’s co-defendants – Felina Salinas, Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, and Bettina Padilla Roces – submitted a request for continuance of the trial date, invoking provisions in the US Speedy Trial Act.
Hatter’s reasons for moving the date of trial include:
- The ends of justice served by the continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and defendants in a speedy trial.
- Failure to grant the continuance would likely make a continuation of the proceeding impossible or result in a miscarriage of justice.
- The case is so unusual and so complex, due to the nature of the prosecution and the number of defendants, that it is unreasonable to expect preparation for pretrial proceedings or for the trial itself within the time limits established by the Speedy Trial Act.
- Failure to grant the continuance would deny all counsel for defendants the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence.
- The period from March 21, 2023, to March 19, 2024, constitutes a reasonable period of delay.
Hatter ordered the jury trial to continue, and the defendants to come to the Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles on March 19, 2024.
Quiboloy and his associates are facing the prospect of life imprisonment for each count of sex trafficking conspiracy alone.
If convicted of fraud, cash smuggling, and money laundering, they could be slapped with statutory maximum penalties ranging from five to 20 years of imprisonment each if found guilty. – Rappler.com