Priest Molester Who Chased 12-year-old Victim down Street Spurs $8.5 Million Lawsuit
By Aimee Green
April 24, 2014
|Rev. Angel Armando Perez at Saint Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn in 2009.|
A 12-year-old boy who awoke to discover Woodburn priest Angel Armando Perez holding a camera and molesting him during a 2012 sleepover is suing the Archdiocese of Portland for $8.5 million.
Perez, 48, is currently serving a prison sentence of more than six years. The boy, on the other hand, has suffered lifelong harm, according to the suit filed Wednesday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.
It is the first lawsuit that the boy’s attorney, Brent Barton, knows of that has been filed for sexual abuse occurring after the archdiocese sought bankruptcy protection in 2004. Other recent lawsuits have been filed for sexual abuse that mostly occurred decades ago.
“Although the church has made progress in recent years, this case demonstrates that it needs to do more to protect children from predators, particularly those who occupy positions of trust,” Barton said Thursday.
Bud Bunce, an archdiocese spokesman, said that protecting children is a top priority.
"The misconduct of Father Angel Perez is a tragic reminder that our vigilance must never be relaxed," Bunce wrote in an email Thursday to The Oregonian.
Bunce said the archdiocese "regrets" that the family of Perez's victim refused all offers to settle the case outside of a lawsuit.
"Our Church repeatedly reached out to the boy’s family to apologize, express concern and offer pastoral and other assistance," Bunch wrote. "Their attorney refused all offers. We continue to keep the victim and his family in our prayers."
|Angel Armando Perez, the day of his 2012 arrest.|
The suit states that the boy came from a devout family that attended church regularly at Woodburn’s Saint Luke Catholic Church, where Perez had worked since 2008. The suit states that Perez groomed the boy by befriending him, counseling him and socializing with him in his free time. That included giving the boy alcohol.
The suit claims that archdiocese staff knew that Perez had been close friends with Uriel Ojeda, a Sacramento priest who was convicted of molesting a 13-year-old girl in 2011 after crawling into bed with her while staying as a guest at her parents’ house.
“Fr. Perez took this news hard and began drinking to excess,” the suit states. “In the months prior to sexually abusing (the boy), Fr. Perez’s alcohol consumption became worse.”
On Aug. 12, 2012, the boy went to Perez’s residence at the rectory of Saint Luke church to stay the night. At about midnight, he awoke to find his pants down and “Perez fondling his genitals and taking pictures of his genitals with a cellular phone. Fr. Perez himself was disrobed from the waist down, exposing his own genitals to (the boy).”
“After recovering from the shock, (the boy) got up, hurriedly attempted to clothe himself, and fled from the church rectory on foot, running from the priest,” the suit continues. “Fr. Perez -- now in his underwear -- began to chase his minor parishioner down the street, screaming for the (the boy) to stop.”
The boy sought refuge with a family in the neighborhood. Perez got in his car.
On April 1, 2013, Perez pleaded guilty in Marion County Circuit Court to first-degree sexual abuse, driving intoxicated and furnishing alcohol to a minor. Perez is a native of Mexico and faces possible deportation once released.
The suit seeks the $8.5 million for the boy’s “permanent emotional injury” and “physical and emotional trauma.”
The suit faults the archdiocese, stating it knew or should have known that Perez was inviting boys to stay the night at his home on many occasions. The suit references the archdiocese’s long history with childhood sexual abuse by members of the clergy, stating that by the 1950s the archdiocese “was aware of a systemic danger of child molestation by its priests.”
After seeking bankruptcy protection in 2004 because of its millions of dollars worth of potential liability from past priest sexual abuse, the archdiocese established “clear standards of conduct” that included never allowing a child and an adult to share a sleeping room unless the adult is a parent or legal guardian, the suit states.
The standards also forbid church personnel from being alone with children they aren’t related to outside of religious sacraments -- or traveling alone on church trips with children who aren’t relatives.
Along with the archdiocese, the suit also lists Saint Luke Catholic Church as a defendant.