10th Circuit Upholds Sex Abuse Convictions of Former Catholic Priest

Courthouse News [Pasadena CA]

April 21, 2021

By Jon Parton

[See also the decision and the original indictment.

The 10th Circuit upheld a federal grand jury’s conviction of a former priest on seven counts of sexual abuse against a 10-year-old boy dating back to the 90s.

Arthur Perrault, a former Roman Catholic priest who served at several parishes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, fled the country in 1992 to Canada and then Morocco after learning of a local reporter’s investigation into allegations that Perrault sexually abused young boys.

“After a two-week sojourn in Canada, Perrault made a new life in Morocco — a country, as it so happens, that doesn’t share an extradition treaty with the United States,” wrote Circuit Judge Gregory Phillips, a Barack Obama nominee, in the 58-page decision.

Following a federal grand jury in 2017 that charged Perrault with six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and a count of abusive sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12, the Moroccan government agreed to expel Perrault, where he was taken back to the U.S. by the FBI.

During the 2019 trial, several other victims testified that Perrault had sexually abused them when he served as a priest at St. Bernadette’s parish and Our Lady of Assumption in Albuquerque, going back to 1966. Perrault was subsequently convicted on all charges and was sentenced to 30 years by U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez.

Last November, Perrault’s attorney argued before the circuit judges that the district court erred in allowing so many of his former victims to testify. He also claimed the jury had already predetermined Perrault’s guilt before hearing the evidence.

The 10th Circuit panel disagreed.

“We don’t share Perrault’s view of the proceedings in the trial court. Rather, after reviewing the record, the parties’ briefing, and the relevant law, we are convinced that Perrault received a fundamentally fair trial in compliance with his constitutional rights,” the decision states.

The government was allowed to file the charges with no statutes of limitations since the abuses were alleged to have occurred on federally-owned property, Kirtland Air Force Base where Perrault was a chaplain, and Santa Fe National Cemetery. 

U.S. Circuit Judges Joel Carson III, a Donald Trump appointee, and Stephanie Seymour, a Jimmy Carter appointee, rounded out the panel.