Brazil spiritual healer sentenced to 19 years for four rapes

DAVID BILLER
FILE - In this March 2, 2012 file photo, Medium Joao Teixeira de Faria, called Joao de Deus, or "John of God," center, speaks to members of the "Casa de Dom Inacio de Loyola" in Abadiania, in the state of Goias, Brazil. The spiritual healer received his first prison sentence on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, following a deluge of sex abuse allegations since late last year. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A spiritual healer in Brazil known as João de Deus, or John of God, received his first prison sentence on Thursday following a deluge of sex abuse allegations since late last year.

A judge in Goias state issued a sentence of 19 years and four months for four rapes of different women, according to a statement from the court. Lawyers for the 77-year-old João de Deus said in a statement that they will appeal the decision.

João Teixeira de Faria drew people from all over the world to his small city two hours west of capital, Brasilia, with promises he could treat everything from depression to cancer, and attended to as many as 10,000 patients per week. Hundreds of women, including his daughter, alleged he regularly engaged in abuse ranging from groping to rape.

Even Oprah Winfrey visited João de Deus in 2012 to interview him for her talk show, and called him “inspiring." After the accusations surfaced, Winfrey issued a statement saying she sympathized with the alleged victims and hoped they receive justice.

João de Deus is facing additional cases related to 10 sex crimes, according to the court's statement.