A former Roman Catholic priest who fled to Morocco before he was returned to the United States and convicted of sexually abusing an altar boy in New Mexico in the 1990s was sentenced on Friday to 30 years in prison, prosecutors said.
U.S District Judge Martha Vazquez imposed the sentence in Albuquerque federal court on the now 81 year old Arthur Perrault and a onetime Air Force chaplain and colonel.
“There are few acts more horrific than the long-term sexual abuse of a child,” U.S. Attorney John Anderson said in a statement. “At long last, today’s sentence holds Perrault accountable for his deplorable conduct.”
Perrault was convicted by a federal jury in April on six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact with a minor in 1991 and 1992 at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and at the Santa Fe National Cemetery, prosecutors said.
The victim, now an adult, testified that Perrault befriended him when he was 9 years old, showering him with gifts and trips before sexually assaulting him, prosecutors said.
Although he was convicted of abusing just one victim, prosecutors alleged in court filings that Perrault was a serial child molester who abused numerous young people over more than 30 years as a priest in New Mexico and Rhode Island.
At his trial, seven other alleged victims testified that Perrault, ordained in 1964, abused them during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
The Roman Catholic Church has been embroiled in allegations of sexual abuse since 1992, when the Boston Globe newspaper revealed a decades-long cover-up by church hierarchy of sexual misconduct by its clergy.
The U.S. Catholic Church has paid out more than $3 billion to settle clergy abuse cases, according to BishopAccountability.org, which tracks the issue.
Under federal law, a convicted defendant must serve at least 85% of a sentence, meaning Perrault will likely die in prison.
Perrault fled the United States in 1992 when his criminal conduct became public, prosecutors said. He was located in Morocco, where he was arrested in 2017 following his indictment on the sex charges, and was extradited to New Mexico.