Accuser’s attorney says Santa Monica should suspend its Police Activities League
By Gary Walker
The attorney for a man who says he was sexually abused as a child by a Santa Monica Police Activities League volunteer wants the city-run youth program put on hiatus as additional victims come forward.
Brian Claypool, who represents Rogelio Monroy in a lawsuit against Santa Monica for alleged sexual abuse by former city employee and ex-PAL volunteer Eric Uller more than 20 years ago, said two additional victims of Uller have recently contacted him.
Meanwhile, Detective Sgt. Marvin Jaramilla of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Unit tells The Argonaut that since Uller’s Oct. 18 arrest, six additional victims have come forward to law enforcement, bringing the total number of accusers to 10.
“That’s proof that there is a systemic, longstanding problem at the PAL program — a fundamental lack of control — and that’s why I think that the program should be temporarily suspended. They’re putting complete strangers unsupervised in front of at-risk kids. That’s a recipe for child molestation,” Claypool said. “In my opinion this has been a playground for predators. These kids are easy prey, and it’s frightening to me that this program is still going on without the city taking a pause.”
Uller, 50, had been slated to appear in criminal court on Nov. 15 but was found dead in his Marina del Rey apartment that morning. Police believe he committed suicide. Uller was 50 and had worked in the city’s IT department.
Santa Monica City Hall has launched an internal investigation.
“We are committed to transparency and accountability. The city attorney’s office has retained outside counsel to conduct a comprehensive investigation of these allegations,” reads a statement by Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer. “The city is also conducting a comprehensive review of the procedures in place to protect youth participants of the PAL program.”
On the city’s website, spokeswoman Miranda Iglesias clarifies that the city is also retaining Praesidium, an outside consultant, to “review the policies and practices of its current youth programs to ensure that best practices for preventing incidents of abuse are in place throughout city programs.”
PAL is a public-private nonprofit operated by the city that provides after school programming for local youth ages 6 through 17. A board member for Santa Monica’s PAL program declined to comment and referred questions to the city, saying the board does not determine program policies.
Claypool, who represented one of the families involved in the LAUSD’s 2014 Miramonte Elementary School sexual abuse scandal, said he’s glad the city is taking action but remains skeptical that the city will hold itself accountable.
“Hiring a law firm doesn’t promote transparency. It actually supports this code of secrecy that we see in these institutional sexual abuse cases,” he asserted.
As for Monroy, who grew up in the Pico Neighborhood, Claypool said he feels “betrayed” by the PAL program.
“His life is unraveling. It’s been a very emotional time for him,” Claypool said.
Investigators urge anyone with pertinent information to call the Sheriff’s Special Victims Unit at (877) 710-5373 or write to email@example.com.