Key witness testifies in priest sex abuse case

Albuquerque Journal

April 5, 2019

By Colleen Heild

Locked in a Moroccan prison in January 2018, Arthur Perrault told a U.S. State Department employee that he was “unhappy and surprised” that his transgressions from the 1980s and 1990s had resurfaced, noting that the Catholic Church had dealt with them years earlier.

To Merrica Heaton, a State Department employee assigned then to Casablanca’s consular office, Perrault’s statement was “admitting to sexual misconduct involving young boys,” she told a jury in U.S. District Court in Santa Fe on Thursday.

Heaton, who said she is a Catholic, added, “This is a huge issue that’s in the church. You can’t un-hear that.”

At the time, Perrault, now 81, had been arrested and was being held by Moroccan authorities on an Interpol warrant, said Heaton, who testified by video from Missoula, Mont.

As an American Citizens Services officer with the State Department, Heaton said, she met Perrault as part of her job to ensure the welfare of U.S. citizens being held in foreign custody.

Perrault’s warrant stemmed from a sealed grand jury indictment issued in 2017 in Albuquerque, charging the former pastor of St. Bernadette’s Parish with seven federal counts of sexual misconduct on federal property involving an 11-year-old altar boy from 1991 to 1992.

His trial on the charges began Tuesday. He has pleaded not guilty.

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