A fugitive priest suspected of child abuse decades ago in New Mexico has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of sexual abuse.
Arthur Perrault entered his plea Friday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque following his arrest in Morocco and return to the U.S.
Court documents show the 80-year-old Perrault was arrested Thursday in New York, and has been charged with criminal aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact in assaults that federal authorities say happened at Kirtland Airforce Base and Santa Fe National Cemetery.
Perrault, who served in New Mexico under the Archdiocese of Santa Fe from 1973 to 1992, is charged in a seven-count indictment with engaging in acts constituting aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact with a minor under the age of 12. The indictment alleges Perrault repeatedly sexually abused the minor victim in 1991 and 1992 while on federally-protected land.
Perrault vanished in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese alleging Perrault had sexually assaulted seven children at his parish.
The former priest turned up last year in Morocco, working at an English-language school for children, where he was subsequently fired.
Moroccan law enforcement authorities arrested Perrault on October 12, 2017, in Morocco on a provisional arrest warrant issued based on the charges in the indictment, which was filed under seal on Sept. 21, 2017.
The FBI assumed custody of Perrault from Moroccan authorities on September 20, 2017. The indictment was unsealed earlier Friday after the U.S. Attorney’s Office notified the Court the FBI had arrested Perrault and transported him from Morocco to the United States, and was in the process of transporting him to the District of New Mexico.
If convicted of the aggravated sexual abuse charges in the indictment, Perrault faces a statutory maximum penalty of life in prison. The abusive sexual contact charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years of imprisonment.
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