New Mexico fugitive priest arrested, pleads not guilty to child abuse charges
Joy Wang and Ryan Laughlin
September 21, 2018 09:17 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A priest who allegedly has more than 35 sexual abuse victims has been arrested and indicted on federal charges.
Arthur Perrault, 80, was arrested Thursday after two FBI special agents flew to Morocco, where the priest was in custody for about a year.
"Bringing Arthur Perrault back to New Mexico took a lot of patience and perseverance, but the FBI and our partners will determine to make sure he faces justice," said FBI Special Agent Jim Langenberg.
On Friday Perrault pleaded not guilty to the seven federal charges brought against him, charges that include sexually abusing a child under the age of 12 at Kirtland Air Force base, where he was a military chaplain, and Santa Fe National Cemetery in the early 1990s.
Perrault, who also served at the Shrine of St. Bernadette in Albuquerque, had been on the run for nearly 30 years. Authorities say he was in New Mexico from 1973-1992, before fleeing to Canada.
The FBI located him in Morocco last year. He was working at an English-language school for children and subsequently fired, according to authorities.
The FBI said they worked with Moroccan authorities to have Perrault extradited to the U.S.
If found guilty, Perrault could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Following the arrest, the law office representing survivors of Perrault's abuse in civil court said their clients are thrilled about the developments.
"The feedback I've received from survivors, whether they are former clients or current clients...they've been uniformly ecstatic," civic attorney Brad Hall said. "The least that can happen, the least that should happen, is the perpetrator, a guy like Father Arthur Perrault, can go do whatever time he has left on this planet in a federal penitentiary."
Unsealed court documents, previously obtained by KOB, detail how Perrault ingratiated himself with faithful New Mexican families for the purpose of molesting and raping young boys in the family. The files say he preyed on altar servers and traded boys with other priests, causing some victims to be raped by multiple members of the clergy.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which Perrault was a part of, provided KOB with the following statement on Friday:
"The Archdiocese of Santa Fe was informed this morning, September 21, 2018, that a news conference would be held today at 11:00 A.M. at the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque to announce the arrest of Fr. Arthur J. Perrault and the unsealing of a federal indictment of Perrault on seven counts of aggravated criminal sexual contact with a minor.
Over the past year, the archdiocese has fully cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI during the federal grand jury investigation which ultimately led to these criminal indictments against Perrault. The archdiocese was informed after Perrault’s arrest was initiated.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe began its own canonical process of investigating these allegations in 1992. The accusations against Perrault were reported immediately to the Albuquerque civil authorities.
The archdiocese has cooperated fully with all law enforcement agencies investigating the allegations and will continue to support the judicial process as it runs its course. We ask all to cooperate and respect the legal proceedings and for prayers for all victims and those affected by these very serious charges.
We encourage anyone who has been the victim of childhood sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to immediately call the police and/or the New Mexico Youth & Families Department (CYFD) as well as Ms. Annette Klimka, ASF Victim Assistance and Safe Environment Coordinator at 505.831.8144 | firstname.lastname@example.org."
The 4 Investigates team examined cases of three former Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, including Perrault, whose alleged widespread abuse of children decades ago not only went undealt with, but contributed to what many mental health professionals call a mental health crisis for New Mexico.
If you’re interested in learning more about clergy abuse that took place in New Mexico, you can listen to the 4 Investigates podcast, “Our Backstory.” The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify.
Initial appearance in court today. Indictment charges him with 7 counts. 6 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. One count of abusive sexual contact.— Joy Wang (@JoyKOB) September 21, 2018
Joy Wang and Ryan Laughlin
Updated: September 21, 2018 09:17 PM
Created: September 21, 2018 10:51 AM
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