Former priest pleads not guilty to abuse charges in NM after extradition

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A former priest is back in the United States after he fled to Morocco in 1992 to escape accusations of sexual abuse.

Arthur Perrault, 80, is accused of sexually abusing a child in the early 1990s and was extradited to New Mexico to face charges Sept. 21.

Perrault served in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992, and the alleged abuse occurred while Perrault was serving as a military chaplain in Albuquerque. He is charged with seven counts of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12.

The former priest has pled not guilty to all seven counts against him.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe stated that “over the past year” it has “fully cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI during the federal grand jury investigation which ultimately led to these criminal indictments against Perrault.”

“The archdiocese has cooperated fully with all law enforcement agencies investigating the allegations and will continue to support the judicial process as it runs its course. We ask all to cooperate and respect the legal proceedings and for prayers for all victims and those affected by these very serious charges.”

Perrault had been in the custody of Moroccan authorities since October of last year, after the Department of Justice filed an indictment against him Sept. 21, 2017. U.S. Attorney John Anderson for the District of New Mexico stated that Perrault could face a maximum sentence of life in prison for the aggravated sexual abuse charge and a maximum of 10 years for the abusive sexual contact charge.

Only one alleged victim is mentioned in the indictment, but a motion filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico alleges that Perrault is a “serial child molester who abused numerous victims” during his priesthood. The Albuquerque Journal reports that nearly 40 of Perrault’s alleged victims in New Mexico have come forward, as well as the mother of one young man who claims her son committed suicide following abuse.

Perrault had been sent to a treatment center for sexually abusive priests in 1965 after being accused of molesting young men in Connecticut. The center, located in Jemez Springs, N.M., was run by the Servants of the Paraclete. In 1966, a psychologist contracting with the order recommended him for a teaching position at St. Pius X High School.

The Journal also reports that court records suggest that several priests and diocesan leaders were alerted to Perrault’s conduct during his 26 year priesthood in Albuquerque.

By 1992, after two victims reported abuse to the Albuquerque police, the then-archbishop suspended Perrault’s priestly faculties and reported the accusations to Albuquerque civil authorities. The accused priest disappeared from his Albuquerque parish in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese.

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