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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

FEDERAL JURY CONVICTS ARTHUR PERRAULT ON FEDERAL CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE CHARGES

Former Priest Extradited from Morocco in September 2018 Found

Guilty of Sexually Abusing Child on Kirtland Air Force Base and Santa Fe

National Cemetery in 1991-1992; Prosecuted Under Project Safe Childhood

 

ALBUQUERQUE – A federal jury sitting in Santa Fe, N.M., returned a guilty verdict against Arthur Perrault on federal child sexual abuse charges today after an eight-day trial before the U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez.  The verdict was announced by U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson for the District of New Mexico, Special Agent in Charge James C. Langenberg of the FBI Albuquerque Division, and Special Agent in Charge Nicholas J. Dorval of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), Detachment 814.

     The jury convicted Perrault, 81, a former Catholic priest who served in New Mexico under the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992, on an indictment charging him with six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12.  Perrault was found guilty of repeatedly sexually abusing the minor victim in 1991 and 1992 while on federally-protected land, Kirtland Air Force Base in Bernalillo County, N.M., and the Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe County, N.M.

     In announcing the guilty verdict, U.S. Attorney Anderson said, “Though the quest for justice can sometimes be long and difficult, today’s jury verdict makes clear that courageous victims and the relentless efforts of law enforcement can, together, make justice a reality.  Despite the passage of many years, and Arthur Perrault’s efforts to evade justice and deny his victims their day in court, he has at long last been held accountable for his crimes.  Although today’s verdict cannot heal the wounds Perrault inflicted on his victims, I am hopeful that it will afford them some measure of validation and closure.”

     “The FBI’s goal in this case was to make sure justice was served, regardless how long it took or how many miles we had to travel to make it happen,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Langenberg. “As the defendant faces the consequences of his crimes, we would like to thank the victim and the other witnesses for their courage in coming forward. I appreciate the hard work and cooperation of everyone involved in this case, including the FBI agents and staff, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and the Moroccan government and our Legal Attaché in that nation.”

     “This conviction is a major step on the path to healing and justice for Perrault’s victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Dorval of AFOSI Detachment 814.  “AFOSI is dedicated to finding and helping to remove these kinds of predators from the street in order to protect our Airmen, their families and our greater military communities.  We would like to express our sincerest thanks for the partnership and assistance of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office.  Without their unwavering assistance, this case would not have come to fruition.”

     The evidence at trial established that Perrault, then an ordained Catholic priest, was in New Mexico in the late 1960s and early 1970s, teaching at a private Catholic high school in Albuquerque.  Years later, one of Perrault’s victims revealed being sexually assaulted by Perrault when he was a student at the school.  The trial evidence established that Perrault continued molesting adolescent boys in New Mexico for decades, until the early 1990s.

     Around 1990, Perrault, then a parish priest in an Albuquerque Catholic church, befriended a nine-year-old altar boy and began grooming the child by giving him gifts, taking him on field trips, and making him feel special.  The child, now a grown man identified as the John Doe victim in the indictment, testified about how Perrault’s affectionate hugs and kisses gradually progressed to regular acts of sexual assault and abuse, some of which took place at Kirtland Air Force Base and the Santa Fe National Cemetery, over the next two years.

     Seven other victims testified about being sexually abused by Perrault in 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s when they were children, each describing traumatic experiences similar to those experienced by John Doe.  The victims described how Perrault used his position as a priest to gain their trust and their parents’ trust, and how he abused that trust to sexually assault and abuse them.

     The jury also heard testimony from a psychologist, an expert on child sex abuse, who testified about delayed disclosure, and explained that it is common for victims of sexual abuse to delay disclosing the abuse, sometimes for decades, sometimes forever.  She explained how traumatic events affect memory and the ability of victims of child sex abuse to recall that abuse over time.  The psychologist discussed “grooming” – the process of building an emotional connection with a child and sometimes the child’s family to gain their trust for the purpose of sexual abuse.

     Other witnesses testified about Perrault’s admissions of child molestation, including an FBI Special Agent, a State Department employee, and one of the victim’s parents.  The evidence against Perrault included two letters he wrote; one in which he apologized to the mother of another victim, and the other in which he admitted molesting “teens.”

     The jury also learned that Perrault partially was responsible for the delay in bringing him to justice.  The evidence established that in 1992, Perrault fled from New Mexico, eventually settling in Morocco, after learning that some of his victims intended publicly to reveal that he had sexually abused them. 

     Moroccan law enforcement authorities arrested Perrault on Oct. 12, 2017, in Morocco at the request of the United States on a provisional arrest warrant issued based on the indictment, which was filed on Sept. 21, 2017.  Morocco ordered his extradition and the FBI assumed custody of Perrault from Moroccan authorities on Sept. 20, 2018, and transported him to the United States.  He has been in federal custody since that time.

     Perrault will remain in federal custody until his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.  At sentencing, Perrault faces a statutory maximum penalty of a lifetime term of imprisonment on the aggravated sexual abuse charges, and a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment on the abusive sexual contact charge.

     This case was investigated by the FBI Albuquerque office with assistance from the AFOIS Detachment 814.  The extradition of Perrault from Morocco was the result of close cooperation between these two investigating agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico, the Morocco Ministry of Justice, Moroccan law enforcement authorities, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, and the FBI Legal Attaché in Morocco. 

     Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean J. Sullivan and Holland S. Kastrin are prosecuting the case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Justice Department to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually abuse children and exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.  For information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.  Information about this prosecution is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-nm/priest-prosecution.  Individuals may provide information about other conduct by Perrault by emailing the U.S. Attorney’s Office at usanm-priest@usdoj.gov or calling the FBI’s Albuquerque Division at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Updated April 10, 2019