Sex-abuse trial of fugitive priest tests federal reach
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Four men who say they were sexually abused by the same Roman Catholic priest decades ago have recounted the details of their experiences as children as federal jurors prepared Wednesday to hear more about the alleged patterns of abuse.
The trial of 81-year-old Arthur Perrault before a federal judge in Santa Fe began Tuesday and is expected to last another two weeks.
Perrault’s case marks an unusual federal criminal prosecution of a former priest in a state where dozens of clergy abuse victims have won more than $50 million in settlements from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The archdiocese also is in the midst of bankruptcy proceeding as a result of the church-wide scandal, which has tarnished parishes across the globe.
Testimony on Tuesday by one of the unnamed men revealed that the archdiocese in 1992 had denied that he had been sexually abused by the priest but the claims were settled out of court at the time with the promise that Perrault would get therapy to prevent another boy from being harmed.
That man, identified only as John Doe #8, told jurors the first assault occurred when he was 12. Perrault was driving the altar boy to the mountains outside of Albuquerque. He told the boy’s parents they would be doing “church business.”
The man testified that the groping started 30 minutes into the trip, the Albuquerque Journal reported . Perrault was accused of pulling off the road and finishing the assault.
They later arrived at what the victim now believes was the Servants of the Paraclete center in Jemez Springs, a secluded retreat in the mountains of northern New Mexico that served as a treatment center for pedophile priests.
Records show Perrault was sent there in 1965 after he was accused of molesting young men while serving in Connecticut.
When Perrault and John Doe #8 arrived at the center, they lit candles, knelt down and prayed.
“I remember him saying that he cared about me and that I was now a man,” he testified.
Perrault has pleaded not guilty to seven federal charges involving another former altar boy. That boy was allegedly sexually assaulted repeatedly by Perrault more than 20 years after John Doe #8 first tried to tell his mother about the abuse.
While wiping tears from his face, John Doe #8 testified that he still sometimes thinks about dying but that he couldn’t do that since he now cares for a son who is a quadriplegic.
Prosecutors called John Doe #8 and the other men as witnesses to show Perrault’s alleged “propensity” for molesting boys. Perrault spent nearly three decades working as a priest in the Albuquerque area after being released from Servants of the Paraclete.
Perrault was arrested in 2017 in the Moroccan city of Tangier, where he taught at an English language school after disappearing from the U.S. in the early 1990s when allegations of his sexual misconduct first came to light publicly.
Perrault is listed on the Santa Fe Archdiocese’s list of clergy members who have been credibly accused of abuse. Church officials have vowed to update the list as more names come are vetted through the proof of claims that are being filed as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.