The city of Santa Monica will pay out an additional $122 million to 124 victims who alleged they were sexually assaulted by a city employee when they were children.
The employee, Eric Wess Uller, 50, served as a volunteer at Santa Monica’s Police Activities League program between the late ’80s and possibly through 2010, officials said.
Over 200 people have since come forward with allegations against Uller.
“These were young underserved kids in the Pico neighborhood in Santa Monica,” said Brian Claypool, the attorney representing the victims. “Most of these kids were immigrants.”
The Tuesday settlement announcement now brings the total settlement payout to nearly $230 million to 229 alleged victims over the past three years.
“In 1989, the city of Santa Monica created a public safety risk for these kids when they hired a guy named Eric Uller who was an IT director at the city,” said Claypool.
Uller was reportedly a standout employee who worked closely with the police department. He was a volunteer for the city’s Police Activities League (PAL) which provided after-school programs to children aged 6 to 17.
Victims said Uller dressed like a police officer and would recruit kids from the program.
“He had a badge. He had handcuffs,” recalls a victim who did not want to be identified. “I remember even seeing a pistol on the seat of his car.”
The victim said Uller sexually abused him for two years starting from when he was just 12 years old.
“You can’t let a monster like this be in the position that he was,” said the victim. “I still have these sleepless nights and I still don’t trust the police.”
“Eric Uller would pick up kids after basketball games or baseball games and he would take them to go get food,” said Claypool. “The last child in the car, he would pull into an alley and molest that child. That was one of his MOs. He did this for over a decade. The city should never have allowed Uller to be picking up kids. He told many of the victims that if you want to participate in a sport, that you have to get a physical. A lot of these kids didn’t know what a physical was.”
Victims said Uller would drive then them to a medical office operated by his family.
“He would make them undress and he sodomized many of these kids in his dad’s medical office,” said Claypool.
Claypool claims city officials were made aware of the abuse as early as the 1990s, but nothing was done until 2018 when Uller was arrested and charged with numerous molestation counts.
“We want to know why the city never investigated when one of my clients looked at a police officer in the face and said, ‘Why are you letting Eric Uller do bad things to kids?’”
Uller committed suicide in 2018 after he was released on bail. He was found dead in his Marina del Rey apartment on the morning of a scheduled court hearing.
The Santa Monica mayor issued a statement on the settlement, saying in part:
“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 victim who spoke with KTLA has this advice for those who may be afraid to speak out about their sexual assault:
“Report it to everybody. Don’t just tell one person. No. Tell everyone,” he said. “If we don’t raise awareness, we’re not going to win this battle.”