TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – A former Catholic priest who fled the United States after allegations he abused children in New Mexico was convicted on Wednesday by a U.S. jury of child sexual abuse, prosecutors said.
After an eight-day trial, a federal jury in Albuquerque, New Mexico, found Arthur Perrault guilty of six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact with a minor, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney John Anderson.
The conviction came as the Catholic Church reels from crises worldwide involving sexual abuse of minors and U.S. states launch their own investigations into thousands of such accusations.
Perrault was found guilty of repeatedly abusing the minor in 1991 and 1992 at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and Santa Fe National Cemetery, prosecutors said.
Perrault’s lawyer Samuel Winder did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The former priest was arrested by Moroccan authorities in 2018, months after an indictment was filed against him in New Mexico. He fled New Mexico in 1992 after learning victims intended to reveal he sexually abused them, prosecutors said.
Around 1990, Perrault, then a parish priest in an Albuquerque Catholic Church, befriended a nine-year-old altar boy and began grooming him, according to prosecutors. The child, now a grown man, testified how Perrault’s friendship turned into regular sexual assault and abuse.
Seven others testified about being sexually abused in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s by Perrault, who also taught at a private Catholic high school in Albuquerque.
A sentencing date has yet to be set. Perrault faces maximum lifetime imprisonment for aggravated sexual abuse, and a maximum 10 years prison for abusive sexual contact.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by G Crosse)