Three victims of Eric Uller are planning to sue the Santa Monica Police Activities League (PAL), alleging that PAL staff failed to address multiple claims that Uller was molesting children in the youth program.
The attorney for the three victims, Brian Claypool, filed a complaint Thursday, just two days after six other victims filed claims against the City of Santa Monica and PAL claiming that both did not investigate and covered up allegations made against Uller that indicated he was sexually abusing young boys he met through the program. The claim filed on behalf of Rogelio Monroy makes the same allegations against PAL and Claypool said he is planning to add the City to the lawsuit pending court approval.
Uller molested more than 10 boys in the 1980s and 1990s while he volunteered at PAL. Uller, who was also a City employee, was found dead in his apartment last November shortly before he was scheduled to appear in court on multiple child molestation charges. The City launched an internal investigation late last year into allegations that City staff covered up Uller’s crimes.
Monroy announced his intention to sue PAL and the City for failing to protect him from sexual abuse last November. Claypool said he is also intending to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of two more victims.
The complaint provides new information about how Uller groomed and molested Monroy and claims that another child was kicked out of the program for calling Uller a molester in front of PAL employees. Uller also routinely took children out for meals and gave them gifts, according to the complaint.
“The red flags were there,” Claypool said. “Anybody with a set of eyes or ears would see he was grooming these kids.”
Monroy met Uller in the late 1980s, when he was 13 or 14 years old. Uller, who was a mentor in the PAL program, introduced himself to Monroy as an undercover police officer, showing him his badge, and carried a gun. Uller would take him to get pizza, drive him home from PAL events and show up to events unrelated to PAL to “hang out” with him, according to the complaint. PAL staff never attempted to prevent unsupervised contact with Uller.
After several months, the grooming escalated to abuse, Monroy alleges. He mentioned to Uller that he needed to get a physical for a soccer team he was on, and Uller said he could arrange for his father, a doctor, to do the physical for free. That evening, he took Monroy to a clinic that appeared to be closed and molested him on the pretense that he was giving him a physical.
Uller threatened to physically harm Monroy if he told anyone what had happened, according to the complaint. Monroy stopped attending PAL events and quit the soccer team, hoping that he would not see Uller again.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department contacted Monroy last summer based on an anonymous tip about Uller. He had not told anyone about the abuse out of fear for his own safety. Monroy suffered substantial anxiety and found it difficult to maintain relationships with family and friends.
The complaint asserts that PAL staff should have prevented Uller from spending time with children unsupervised and responded to claims that he was molesting young boys, alleging that another boy in PAL called Uller a molester in front of PAL employees and was subsequently kicked out of the program.
“They knew or should have known he was a predator,” Claypool said.
The complaint asks for a jury trial and judgment against PAL for sexual harassment and negligent supervision, hiring and retention. It seeks damages in an amount to be determined at trial. Claypool said he will be filing two additional complaints on Monday.
The City has retained Praesidium, an outside consultant, to review the policies and practices of current youth programs to ensure that best practices for preventing incidents of abuse are in place throughout City programs, said City spokesperson Constance Farrell.