Woodburn Priest Held without Bail in Alleged Sex Abuse
By Maxine Bernstein
August 20, 2012
|Marion County Jail|
A Marion County judge on Monday ordered a Woodburn priest, who is accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy at his home last week, remain in custody without bail.
Judge Audrey Broyles found "clear and convincing" evidence that the Rev. Angel Armando Perez, the parish priest at St. Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn, would pose a risk to the victim in the case and the general public if he was released pending trial.
Broyles said Perez's position as an ordained priest in a small community gives him a unique position of trust and power.
"He abused that power," the judge said. "Clearly he had, he has and would have access to children – directly or indirectly."
Perez appeared behind a glass partition. He wore dark blue jail shirt and pants, and mostly looked down during the 20-minute hearing.
More than 40 parishioners from St. Luke Catholic Church came to Marion County Circuit Courthouse. They wore yellow-and-white ribbons attached to their shirts that read, "Estamos Contigo (We support you) P. Angel A. Perez."
One member, Tom Maravilla, had offered to take Perez into his home, pending a trial in the case. But the judge refused to consider it.
"Quite frankly, my concern is that unintentionally or unwittingly because of that support, it might lead itself to Pastor Perez victimizing again," the judge said.
A grand jury also Monday returned an eight-count indictment against Perez. It charges him with first-degree sexual abuse, abuse of a child in the display of sexually explicit conduct, tampering with physical evidence, four counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Judge Broyles said she was concerned about evidence that accuses Perez of providing alcohol to the alleged victim in this case on four separate occasions.
"There is a certain amount of deliberation on the part of Mr. Perez," the judge said.
The allegations suggest Perez was "grooming" his victim, Broyles said.
A 12-year-old Salem boy had planned to spend the night at Perez's home on Aug. 12 after the priest had asked his parents a few days earlier if he could take the boy on a trip to the mountains.
The boy went home with Perez after attending a community church event that Sunday night. He told authorities he was "woken up by a couple of flashes" and found Perez next to him on an air mattress, with one hand on the boy's genitals and the other holding a cellphone, according to court records.
The boy packed up his belongings and ran out of the house just before midnight. Perez, wearing only his underwear, is accused of chasing after the boy. Nearby resident James Curths shielded the boy from Perez, who tried to wave the boy back to him, Curths told The Oregonian.
Instead, Curths drove the boy to relatives. The boy told his sister, "Father Angel touched me in my privates," according to a probable cause affidavit.
Meanwhile, police said Perez drove to the boy's home. He appeared intoxicated, and dropped to his knees to beg for forgiveness, the affidavit said.
Marion County Deputy District Attorney Katie Suver had argued for a no-bail hold. She said authorities know Perez took a photo of the boy's genitals using his iPhone, and deleted it, obtaining evidence from a thumbdrive. That prompted the tampering with evidence charge, she said.
"What we do not know is whether he duplicated" it or shared the photo, Suver told the court.
She said Perez, by his own admission, "has a significant alcohol problem."
The prosecutor also suggested Perez is a flight risk, noting that the Archdiocese of Portland has provided him an open-ended loan for legal representation and he may have ties out of state. Suver noted that Perez is a resident but not a citizen of the United States. If he is convicted of sexual abuse, he could be removed from the country, Suver said.
"There are no conditions that this court can impose that would ensure the victim's safety and the public's safety," Suver argued.
Attorney Kendra Matthews, appearing on behalf of Perez, said the pastor would adhere to any conditions of release, including electronic monitoring or house arrest. She said she had Perez's passport and would be willing to turn it over to the court.
Matthews cited three community supporters of Perez – church secretary and friend Monica Hernandez Torres (Perez is her son's godfather) , local attorney and churchgoer Kirk Schmidtman and church member Tom Maravilla – who were present and would vouch before the court that their pastor would follow any conditions the court set for his release.
Maravilla, a retired school teacher, said he was willing to act as a "third-party custodian" and allow Perez to reside with him and his wife, Linda.
"This is a person who is not going to be walking away," Matthews told the court, regarding Perez. "His philosophy is very much by the book in how he behaves on a day-to-day basis."
Matthews said the loan from the Archdiocese of Portland is restricted to his legal fees, and not for his release. She said he has no prior criminal history and has been in Oregon since 1995. His family, Matthews said, live in the United States, noting a mother, brother and sister reside in the Chicago area.
"There is a wide group of people who believe he will comply with these requirements and appear in court," Matthews said. "These are people he has cared about, and not people he's going to walk away from or the trust they have demonstrated in him."
Outside court afterwards, Maravilla explained to more than 50 of his fellow parishioners that Perez was not being released. He urged them not to lose their faith, and tried to assure them other pastors would be assigned to their church.
"Keep your prayers coming," Maravilla said. "There will always be church.''
"It is us that needs to be healed as well. In my heart, I feel pain. In my mind, I know that I'm bothered. But I'm a strong Catholic... Pray for this man. Pray for our church too.''
The next court date for the Perez case is Sept. 4 at 8:30 a.m.