SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Catholic priest pleaded guilty Monday to sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy he invited for a sleepover when he was pastor of a church in a small city south of Portland.
The Rev. Angel Armando Perez was sentenced to more than six years in prison after pleading guilty in Marion County Circuit Court to first-degree sexual abuse, DUI and furnishing liquor to a minor.
Perez, a former pastor at St. Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn, was arrested in August. The Salem child told police he woke up during a sleepover in Perez's home to find the priest touching his genitals and apparently taking photographs with a cellphone.
Police said the boy ran from the home with Perez chasing him. Neighbors took the boy to his sister's house.
Detectives wrote in their affidavit that the 47-year-old priest, a native of Mexico who has permanent legal residency in the U.S., told them he drank too much at a community event and doesn't remember what happened after he and the boy watched a movie.
Police said the boy told them the priest gave him a beer and he drank about half of it.
A grand jury indictment charged Perez with giving the boy alcohol on several occasions and accused the priest of evidence tampering. Marion County Deputy District Attorney Katie Suver said investigators believed Perez deleted a photo from his cellphone.
As part of Monday's plea agreement, additional charges of using a child in display of sexually explicit conduct and evidence tampering were dismissed, Suver said in a statement.
"We ask that everyone keep the victim and his family in their prayers," the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland said in a statement. "We also pray for healing and peace for the parishioners of the St. Luke Parish family."
Perez was placed on administrative leave when the accusations came to light, archdiocese spokesman Bud Bunce said Monday night. Now that the criminal case is resolved, "the church will be able to look at what other things need to be done."
Those possibilities range from placing Perez on permanent leave to removing him from the priesthood, Bunce said.
For the past decade, the archdiocese has worked to implement safety measures for clergy, teachers, adult volunteers and youth, the statement said.
"However, the misconduct of even one person can teach that our vigilance must never be relaxed," it added.
Regarding Perez, the statement said, "We also ask for prayers for the family and friends of Father Perez and prayers for forgiveness. Yet, forgiveness does not exclude the consequences of justice under our nation's laws. Father Perez is now facing those consequences."
Bunce said he was not aware of any civil claims or lawsuits filed in the case. He said he believed the archdiocese loaned Perez money for his criminal defense but didn't know the amount.
The Archdiocese of Portland was the first in the nation to declare bankruptcy in 2004, just hours before two civil trials on sex abuse allegations were set to begin. The diocese emerged from bankruptcy in 2007 with a $50 million settlement of more than 175 claims. Another $20 million was set aside to handle future claims.