The Santa Monica City Council has approved a $122-million payout for victims of a former city employee who say they were molested as children. The settlement brings total payments in this case to $230 million – the largest amount ever paid by a municipality to settle claims against one individual.
Former top systems analyst Eric Uller was arrested in 2018 on suspicion of molesting four boys while he was a volunteer for the city’s Police Activities League (PAL) in the 1990s. More than 200 victims have since come forward and accused Uller of sexual abuse stretching back more than three decades.
Most of Uller’s accusers were underprivileged youth from immigrant families who lived in the Pico neighborhood of Santa Monica. The PAL program provided them with after-school services.
Uller dressed like a police officer and carried a badge and handcuffs, victims recall. He often brought them to a medical office owned by his father, a prominent physician, and assaulted them there.
Uller had already been accused of sexual misconduct by the time he was hired as a police volunteer. A 1991 background check conducted by the Santa Monica Police Department revealed he’d been arrested as a teenager for molesting a toddler he baby-sat, according to documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. SMPD did not act on this information.
A fellow PAL officer became suspicious of Uller in 1995 and began conducting interviews. When the officer found out Uller had touched one of the PAL youth participants’ privates, she reported it to her boss. She was told to stop spreading “gossip” or be reprimanded.
A detective with the sheriff’s juvenile unit also became suspicious of Uller and reported it to her superiors. She too was told to be quiet. The abuse continued into the early 2000s.
At the time, Santa Monica's police department was headed by James T. Butts, who now serves as Mayor of Inglewood. Butts has denied he had any knowledge of the allegations against Uller.
“My heart goes out to the victims who have experienced so much pain and heartbreak,” Mayor Gleam Davis said in a statement announcing the latest settlement. “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.”
Uller killed himself shortly after his arrest.