Eric Uller (LASD)

Four alleged victims of Eric Uller are suing not only the Santa Monica Police Activities League (PAL) but also its parent organizations, alleging that the state and national PALs have failed to prevent sexual abuse in the program.

Attorney Anthony DeMarco filed complaints in April against the Santa Monica, California and national PALs on behalf of four clients who allege they suffered sexual abuse as children at the hands of Eric Uller, who was a PAL volunteer during the late 1980s and early 1990s and a City of Santa Monica employee until last year. Uller was found dead in his apartment last November shortly before he was scheduled to appear in court on multiple felony counts of lewd acts upon a child, oral copulation of a person under 18 and continuous sexual abuse.

11 other alleged victims are pursuing litigation against PAL or the City. DeMarco said he will soon file a complaint on behalf of a fifth client.

DeMarco said his litigation will focus on institutional policies and communication regarding sexual abuse within PAL and its state and national parent organizations.

Because one of the former PAL members suing the City was abused by a PAL employee, Fernando Ortega, in the early 1990s and PAL employee Donald Condon took inappropriate photos of children in the program in 2014, DeMarco said he believes the organization did not take the necessary measures to prevent sexual abuse and may have covered it up.

“It speaks to an institutional lack of control when multiple volunteers and employees in the same program abuse children,” he said. “We’re going after the internal documents all PALs have about folks who work for them being accused of abuse and all policies they have had at all points in time.”

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.

DeMarco said the experiences of his four clients are similar to those of other alleged victims pursuing litigation against the City or PAL.

The victims said Uller groomed them when they were 13 or 14 years old by picking them up from PAL events and taking them out for meals. Uller molested many of them and several other victims by taking them to his father’s medical office on the pretense of giving them physicals, DeMarco said.

“There was a very strong pattern,” he said.

DeMarco said his clients complained to PAL staff that they were uncomfortable with Uller’s behavior but staff did not prevent Uller from interacting with them.

“Every youth program out there for the past 30 years has known that the key to keeping kids safe is that you don’t let adults interact with minors unsupervised,” he said. “That’s a foundational rule of child protection and it doesn’t appear that was followed here.”

madeleine@smdp.com

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