City of Santa Monica will pay $230M in settlement to 200-plus sex abuse victims of ex-police staffer who molested them as children
SMPD staffer Eric Uller molested children while volunteering at the Police Activities League with underprivileged kids in the 1980s and 1990s
Despite his 2018 suicide while awaiting trial, the City’s alleged negligence and even cover-up led to the ‘deluge of lawsuits’
Whistleblowers claim they reported the abuse as far back as 1993, but were shut down or ignored by senior staff
Attorney Catherine Lerer, whose firm represents 14 victims, said ‘more claims could still be made’ and victims have until their 40th birthday to file a claim
Santa Monica PD staffer Eric Uller molested children while volunteering at the Police Activities League with underprivileged kids in the 1980s and 1990s. Despite his 2018 suicide while awaiting trial, the City’s alleged negligence and even cover-up led to the ‘deluge of lawsuits’
The City of Santa Monica has now agreed to pay out a total $230million to more than 200 victims of former police staffer Eric Uller, it announced Tuesday – among the biggest payout of its kind ever, for one of the most prolific alleged abusers, but one lawyer representing several claimants says there could still be more claims, consequently a larger compensatory settlement.
The California city’s council said it approved settlements of $122.5million for 124 claimants last week Tuesday.
Attorney Catherine Lerer, whose firm represented 14 of the victims, said that the total payouts have now reached a staggering $229,825,000, to over 200 people allegedly abused by Uller as children.
‘More claims could still be made,’ she said.
‘For victims under age 40, they have until their 40th birthday to file a claim.’
The pedophile, Eric Uller [photo], worked as an IT technician and dispatcher at SMPD, dressing in police uniform and driving marked and unmarked police cars. Whistleblowers claim they reported the abuse as early as 1993, but were shut down or ignored by senior staff
‘My clients are happy that there is some measure of justice which will help them to move forward in their lives and in their healing, but the unfortunate reality is that no amount of money can take away the memory of what was done to them.’
Uller who worked as an IT technician and dispatcher at SMPD, also dressed in police uniform and drove both marked and unmarked police cars.
Whistleblowers claim they reported the abuse as far back as 1993, but were shut down or ignored by senior staff.
The City of Santa Monica has agreed to pay out$229,825,000, to over 200 victims, following abuse lawsuits brought against the city’s police department
Former Santa Monica Police Department [SMPD], staffer Eric Uller molested dozens of kids while volunteering at the Police Activities League [PAL], a non-profit for underprivileged youth, in the 1980s and 1990s.
The alleged pedophile killed himself awaiting trial in 2018., but the City’s alleged negligence and even cover-up of the abuse led to a mountain of lawsuits.
Victims told of Uller grooming them, inviting kids to play in his police car and gradually progressing to molesting and raping them.
The city voted for the settlement on April 25. Brian Claypool of The Claypool Law Firm announces the terms of the landmark settlement during a press conference at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on April 26. His firm represented more than 80 victims
It took decades to uncover that Eric Uller was a sexual predator and the full extent of the serial abuse he inflicted on minors that destroyed the lives of children in the city’s care. The mind boggling lapse in oversight posed grave questions as to why it took so long for authorities to uncover what Uller was doing to the city’s vulnerable wards.
Some of his alleged victims were as young as eight years old, and said they were abused for years.
A former staffer who left PAL in 2022, claims that she reported Uller to the program’s director, Patty Loggins, in 1993 after a boy came to her office and alleged Uller had made sexually inappropriate comments to him. Instead she was threatened with a reprimand for gossiping, Michelle Cardiel says.
She was not the only staffer who brought up the unusual events to superiors.
In a sworn declaration a female detective with the sheriff’s juvenile unit said she became suspicious of Uller, noting he ”was becoming too close, both physically and emotionally, with the boys that I saw him with.”
“I thought that Eric’s behavior and involvement around the boys was not appropriate, and so I reported my concerns to my sergeant and my lieutenant,” the detective said. She was told by her superiors that it was not her business.
After uncovering that Uller had had boys over at his house and had taken them on weekend trips, she told him to stop this behavior. He ignored her, she said in the declaration.
“When I think about how he molested these boys while I was a Santa Monica police officer whose job it was to protect kids from people like Eric, it breaks my heart,” she wrote.
Cardiel also recounted how teenage boys would turn up at the PAL office in Memorial Park with the latest Air Jordans or other clothing and say Uller bought them.
“Uller befriended all the officers and managers and dazzled them with his computer skills,” Cardiel said.
Santa Monica City Councilman Oscar de la Torre also tried to blow the whistle on Uller starting in the early 2000s, but says no action was taken, and alleged the council even retaliated by defunding the youth center he helped run.
‘Because none of these cases has gone to trial, we may never know the full extent of the city’s malfeasance,’ Lerer said.
‘There will never be a public airing of who knew, why was nothing done, and was there a coverup.
‘I am happy for the victims who are receiving compensation for the horrible abuse they suffered. At the same time, I’m sad for the residents of my hometown, the city of Santa Monica, for the impact the payout resulting from the city’s malfeasance will have on them.’
California Assembly Bill 218 temporarily extended the statute of limitations on historic child sex abuse, resulting in a deluge of lawsuits, with many being filed as recently as four months ago.
Former staffer at PAL, Michelle Cardiel, [L-R], claims she reported Uller to the program’s director, Patty Loggins, in 1993 after a boy came to her office and alleged Uller had made sexually inappropriate comments to him
‘Most of my clients didn’t come forward until the last week of December 2022,’ Lerer said. ‘The reasons they gave for coming forward so late were embarrassment, shame, humiliation, and desperate desire to keep their family and friends from learning what happened to them.
‘Under California law, a childhood sexual abuse victim must file a lawsuit by age 40. Many of my Uller victim clients are under age 40, so I strongly suspect there are more victims out there.
‘I suspect some victims we’ll never know about because they committed suicide. Other victims are in jail because the abuse put them on a path of destruction.’
Memorial Park in Santa Monica, where childhood sexual abuse allegedly took place. Whistleblower claims she witnessed suspicious behavior involving Uller, including teenage boys turning up at the PAL office in Memorial Park with the latest Air Jordans or clothing items ‘and saying ‘Uller bought them’
The City says it has added more training and protections for children in its care.
‘Following the first allegations of sexual abuse by Uller in 2018, the City expanded requirements for Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training for all employees, volunteers, and contractors for any City-managed youth program; and created a Child Protection Committee, and established a Child Protection Officer, to oversee implementation of child abuse prevention measures across City programs,’ it said in a press release Wednesday.
‘My heart goes out to the victims who have experienced so much pain and heartbreak,’ said Mayor Gleam Davis. ‘The settlement is the City’s best effort to address the suffering of the victims in a responsible way, while also acknowledging that the harm done to the victims cannot be undone.’
‘The City has remained vigilant by implementing best practices and strict policies to ensure that these unconscionable acts do not occur again,’ said City Manager David White.