March 30, 2019
By Mary Hudetz
A priest who was captured in Morocco after fleeing the U.S. decades ago is facing a federal trial on charges that he sexually abused a New Mexico boy in the early 1990s at an Air Force base and veterans’ cemetery.
The trial of 80-year-old Arthur Perrault is set to begin Monday in Santa Fe with jury selection. Prosecutors are expected to call dozens of witnesses, including a former deacon, parents and former military members who knew Perrault in the early 1990s.
Federal authorities have said in court documents that Perrault may have had as many as eight other victims. But the charges against him only involve an 11-year-old altar boy.
The church sent Perrault to New Mexico in the 1960s for treatment at a center for pedophile priests. He was arrested in 2017 in Tangier, where authorities say he had been teaching at an English-language school for children.
Perrault’s case marks a rare federal criminal prosecution of a former Catholic priest in the state where dozens of clergy abuse victims have won more than $50 million in settlements from the Santa Fe Archdiocese, which has filed for bankruptcy protection as a result of the lawsuits.
“It’s great he’s finally being held accountable for what he did,” Michael Norris, a spokesman for the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said about Perrault. “But I’m also disappointed that some of the bishops that allowed him to be shuffled around aren’t being held accountable.”
Perrault returned to the U.S. in September to face charges of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact. He has pleaded not guilty.
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