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Ex-priest in rape case released on house arrest

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A Santa Fe judge ruled that the state Attorney General’s Office did not prove that a former priest, now 81 years old and accused of raping a child decades ago, is currently a danger to the community and released him on house arrest.

Marvin Archuleta was indicted on one count of criminal sexual penetration of a minor and kidnapping, both first-degree felonies, on Thursday. The former priest allegedly raped a 6-year-old boy at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Española in either 1986 or 1987. He was arrested at his Albuquerque apartment on Feb. 8.

The Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to keep Archuleta in jail pending trial, but state District Judge Matthew Wilson denied the motion Friday.

“With the evidence in this case, it’s hard for the court to say what the strength of the case is,” Wilson said. “It really comes down to the credibility of the victim. … In the end, I don’t think the state has proven its case by clear and convincing evidence that no conditions of release would keep the public safe.”

Archuleta was ordered to stay on house arrest at his apartment near the Big I and can only leave Bernalillo County for court hearings. He must also not go within 100 yards of a school or anywhere else where children may be, including church services.

According to testimony Friday by Special Agent Jacob Trujillo of the AG’s Office, the alleged victim and two other boys were called to a priest’s dressing room by Archuleta and were greeted with a large table filled with cookies and punch.

After the other two boys left, Trujillo said, Archuleta raped the victim, who was screaming loudly during the assault.

“He remembers vividly feeling the cuff links of his (Archuleta’s) church garment,” Trujillo said.

Assistant Attorney General Zach Jones argued that Archuleta was a danger to the public because the cookies and punch show the attack was premeditated and because Archuleta was not worried about raping a screaming child.

“The defendant in this case is undoubtedly dangerous from the state’s perspective,” Jones said. “… This kind of mind-set doesn’t evaporate over the years.”

Archuleta’s attorney, Ryan Villa, said a church document shows that Archuleta was assigned in Maryland at the time of the alleged rape and wasn’t assigned to Española until 1988.

There were also allegations that Archuleta fled to Mexico after he was served with a civil suit alleging sexual abuse in the ’90s, but Villa said he was sent to Mexico on assignment.

Wilson said he could find no evidence that Archuleta “fled” to Mexico.

Archuleta has been in New Mexico the last four years, Villa said.

Archuleta needed the assistance of a walker when he was arrested and was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair. Villa said he recently had a surgery that impairs his mobility.

“The question is: Is he dangerous now?” Villa asked the court.

During his testimony, Trujillo said another man called the AG’s Office on Friday and said he was sexually abused by Archuleta at Holy Cross in the early ’90s.