Rape trial of student collapses because
Jeffery Daniels left his native Peru in 2001, moved to the U.S., married and started a family, leaving behind the elite Catholic society he’d spent years with for a life in the quiet north Chicago suburb of Antioch.
Now, in the wake of an explosive report issued earlier this year, Peruvian prosecutors have charged Daniels and three other men in connection with alleged sexual abuse that occurred at the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in Lima.
The four men have been charged with conspiracy to commit sexual, physical and psychological abuse, according to Peruvian court documents provided by attorney Hector Gadea, who represents the alleged victims.
Gadea said prosecutors have asked a judge to order the men’s arrests and detention for nine months while authorities continue their investigation into members of the organization, also known as the SCV.
The charges were confirmed by an aide to Peruvian Congressman Alberto de Belaunde, who added that Daniels and the other men — including Luis Fernando Figari, the SCV’s founder and former leader — allegedly took advantage of their "proximity to minors and young adults" to abuse followers, most of whom were young men or boys.
Daniels has told local U.S. authorities that he denies the allegations. But de Belaunde, who serves on the nation’s Commission of Justice and Human Rights, applauded the charges.
“Jeffery Daniels has serious allegations of abusing minors,” de Belaunde said in a statement, written in Spanish, that he released to the Tribune. “In all this time, Daniels has been silent and has chosen to forget. But the victims do not forget and neither will a country with dignity. In addition to ensuring that justice is served, it is important to ensure that there are no more victims.”
The announcement of the charges follows the publication of a book written by journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas that claims decades of abuse occurred within the organization. It also comes on the heels of an independent investigation commissioned by the SCV’s current leaders.
It is unclear what, if any, official title Daniels had within the organization, which is dedicated to training lay people in the Catholic faith. But the independent investigators noted that he led boys ages 12 to 16 in Bible studies and group activities, and took them on mission trips.
In the SCV’s commissioned report, released in February, the independent investigators pegged Daniels as “the most egregious” alleged molester, accusing him of sexually abusing at least a dozen boys and young men in his care between 1985 and 1997.
Last month, de Belaunde sent letters to various U.S. government officials and media outlets, including the Tribune and the Antioch Police Department. The letter said Daniels lives in Antioch and stated its purpose was “to inform you about this situation before the Peruvian prosecutor formally notifies the American authorities of this case.”
Tribune reporters made several attempts to speak with Daniels, but were unsuccessful. He recently denied the claims to Antioch police investigators.
In November, the department interviewed Daniels, 49, as part of a background investigation it opened after receiving de Belaunde’s letter.
“Jeffery confirmed that he was the ‘Jeffery Daniels’ referenced in the Peru allegations, though he denied any wrongdoing what so ever,” Antioch Detective Sgt. Tom Nowotarski wrote in a report of the interview obtained by the Tribune through an open records request. “Jeffery stated that he is uncertain why such allegations were levied against him.”
The SCV report, which outlines alleged sexual abuse by former leaders and members of the society, noted that “(in) the most egregious case of abuse in the SCV, Jeffery Daniels abused at least 12 minor males who were associated with SCV ministries between 1985 and 1997,” according to a copy of the report.
One victim told investigators, according to the report: “When I was 14 years old, Daniels became increasingly friendly with me and gave me affection that I did not get from my family. … His affections became sexual. … I thought I had been selected by the devil to provide sexual services to this man. … Now I have flashbacks.”
According to the report, after allegations of sexual abuse were brought to the organization’s leaders in 1997, they sent Daniels away to live in seclusion for three years, saying he was receiving psychological treatment. After Daniels was released, he left Peru and came to the U.S., the report stated.
Daniels, however, denied that he was sent to live in seclusion over allegations of sexual abuse. Instead, he told Antioch police he spent the three years in isolation in order to determine whether he wanted to continue his life at the SCV.
“(He) stated that after the spiritual sequester, he ultimately decided to leave the order and subsequently moved to the United States of America,” Nowotarski wrote in his police report on his interview with Daniels.
Little is known about his life since he arrived in the U.S.
Peruvian officials said he is a Peruvian citizen, but a source told the Tribune that Daniels obtained his Illinois driver’s license in October 2001 using a U.S. passport.
An announcement in a local newspaper said that he and his wife obtained a marriage license on July 20, 2005. Daniels told Antioch police that he works out of his home for a hotel company, and his wife told investigators she is a retired teacher who still volunteers in their local school district and a local Catholic church.
Neither Antioch police nor the FBI’s Chicago office has received any requests from any Peruvian or U.S. officials regarding Daniels.
It is unclear whether Peruvian authorities have initiated efforts to have Daniels extradited, but a spokesman for the FBI said that there are a number of ways authorities there could try to have him returned.
Antioch police have no reports of crimes or allegations involving Daniels in the U.S., but said that they would cooperate with any efforts by other law enforcement agencies to investigate him.
“We have established contact with Mr. Daniels and we are certainly a pro-active agency ready to take any and all steps necessary to protect the public, and particularly the children of this community,” Robert Long, an attorney for the village of Antioch, said in an email to the Tribune. “If anyone wishes to report anything, we are ready to act as necessary, within the limits of our jurisdictional powers and the laws we enforce.”
In an interview with the Tribune, Urbina said he was 14 when Daniels began abusing him in Lima, Peru.
His mother brought him to the Catholic organization in 1995 because he was getting bullied at school and needed support and mentorship. Instead, Urbina alleges that he was abused for more than two years.
Urbina told the Tribune that Daniels, who was 28 at the time, regularly supervised events with young boys. Urbina met him for the first time for a group outing one Saturday afternoon and thought he was “funny, interesting and arrogant.”
At the end of the day, Daniels drove the group of children home and dropped Urbina off last, he said. But instead of taking him straight to his home, Daniels stopped at a neighborhood park to talk about trust, Urbina said.
There, Urbina said, Daniels abused him. Urbina said he didn’t tell anyone at the time — he was too confused about what was happening to say it out loud. “I was a child. I didn’t know what I was doing or what I wanted,” he said.
Urbina publicly came forward early last year in an interview with the Peruvian outlet El Comercio, and said he is determined to shed light on the abuse and wishes he had come forward sooner.
“These are scars that I’ll carry for years,” he said. “It’s a pain I’m going to carry in my heart forever.”