By Lily Hansen, UW News Lab/Special to CHS
Priscilla Moreno met Redwolf Pope during her first year of law school at Seattle University in 2011. She was initially flattered by the attention he showed her.
Pope, eleven years her senior, was a celebrity on campus: He was a well-known activist in Seattle with an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss Native American perspectives on Thanksgiving, and had received his undergraduate degree from the university a year earlier.
Within weeks of beginning their romantic relationship, Moreno says she saw red flags. He was controlling, called her names, and limited her interactions with other men. As months passed, she says Pope became increasingly violent.
In July 2018, Pope was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a Seattle woman in a Santa Fe, New Mexico hotel room. A month later, the King County Prosecutor charged Pope with two counts of second-degree rape after two of his business associates discovered video recordings of Pope with two unconscious women in his Capitol Hill apartment.
“[Pope] hid video cameras around his apartment in Seattle where he captured images of friends who he invited in his home, as well as his unwitting roommates,” prosecutors wrote at the time. “Most disturbingly, the defendant filmed himself raping women, women who were friends of the defendant.”
This September, Pope was convicted of rape and voyeurism in New Mexico. Following his sentencing later this month, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has confirmed it plans to extradite Pope to Seattle to pursue the 2018 charges.
With Pope now convicted, Moreno is determined to hold Seattle University accountable. Not only did university administrators fail to stop Pope’s abuse against her, Moreno claims, she says they enabled it.
Moreno first notified Seattle University of the abuse she was experiencing in February 2013. The university’s Department of Public Safety imposed a mutual no-contact order between Pope and Moreno, but that was the extent of the intervention.
By the time Moreno graduated in May 2014, she had gotten nowhere. Diploma in hand, she fled the state with no plans to return.
“This isn’t a story about silver-linings or optimism,” she said. “It’s as bad as it sounds. And that’s it. There is no happy ending.”
Prior to coming to Seattle, Moreno had carved out a reputation as a community organizer in her hometown of El Paso, Texas. She facilitated events and meetings for some of her city’s most marginalized community members and actively pushed progressive platforms.
That all changed after she made the decision to speak with university administrators.
“That experience basically destroyed my life,” she said. “Nothing has been fixed and I had to flee the state. I was completely ostracized for coming forward and I still am.”
She alleges the worst of Pope’s abuse took place in September 2012 when he initiated an argument with Moreno about one of her previous romantic relationships. The confrontation lasted the entire night, she said, until Pope grabbed her by the shoulders and shoved her backwards, causing her to slam her head into a wall and blackout.
While Pope was in his room, Moreno called for an ambulance and was taken to the hospital to get checked for injuries. While speaking with a social worker, the police arrived and handcuffed her to the hospital bed, she says.
She was informed by the officers that Pope had given them a statement in which he accused Moreno of being the primary aggressor. After being discharged from the hospital, she spent the weekend in jail.
Moreno said the decision to inform Seattle University of Pope’s behavior came after he cornered and threatened her in an empty classroom.
The Department of Public Safety’s mutual no-contact order did little to stop the abuse, however. He continued to text her, harassed her friends and family, and recruited his friends to pressure her into recanting her story to the university, she said.
Seattle University says it cannot respond to the specifics of Moreno’s experience. “Ms. Moreno and Mr. Pope are former students. Federal privacy laws prevent the university from disclosing details involving their enrollment at SU, including the allegations you are asking us to respond to that Ms. Moreno is making,” a spokesperson from Seattle University said in a statement sent to CHS.
In March 2013, Moreno petitioned for a temporary domestic violence protection order against Pope in King County Superior Court.
At these hearings, she found a letter of good character from Seattle University President Stephen V. Sundborg was being used by Pope to defend himself in court. CORRECTION: Sundborg had not specifically given Pope permission to use the letter in court as a declaration, according to a message from Sundborg to Moreno provided to CHS. Sundborg provided the letter to Pope as part of his admission to the State Bar and had given Pope permission to use the document as a letter of good character.
To Moreno, the letter was the ultimate betrayal. She reached out to Sundborg via email to ask for answers but was told that he was unable to discuss the situation with her, she said. Instead, she bounced from administrator to administrator, desperately seeking guidance on how to handle the situation and ensure her safety.
UPDATE: In 2014, Sundborg wrote to Moreno telling her that Pope had contacted him and asked to use the letter the president had written years earlier in “a matter involving a personal conflict.” “I am concerned that a letter I wrote for purposes of Mr. Pope’s admission to the Washington State Bar could be interpreted as a statement on my views or opinion in an unrelated domestic violence or harassment matter,” Sundborg wrote to Moreno. “I have not taken sides in the domestic violence or harassment matters involving Mr. Pope or Ms. Moreno, nor do I intend to do so.”
Meanwhile, Moreno says Pope “skipped” through the hallways of the university’s buildings, spreading lies about her and showing students a printed copy of the mugshot from her September 2012 arrest. His actions continued to go unpunished, Moreno said.
Moreno did not personally meet with Sundborg until a few weeks before her graduation in May 2014. It was only after telling an administrator that she was considering filing an ethics complaint against the president that he agreed to meet with her, she says.
Their meeting offered little clarity for Moreno. She claims that Sundborg told her that he was unaware of the specific circumstances for which Pope intended to use the character letter he had written for him, but only that it was for a “personal matter” between Pope and Moreno. She also alleges that Sundborg admitted to not knowing that the letter could be used against her in court.
To remedy the situation, Sundborg offered to write Moreno a letter clarifying his neutrality on the issue. Moreno accepted the offer and received the letter a week before her graduation.
“It was kind of useless,” she said of the letter. “It was just a way for Sundborg to distance himself from the matter.”
In a statement, the university wrote that it currently maintains “no relationship with Mr. Pope.”
Since Moreno first met Pope in 2011, she has sat through 21 civil court hearings. The most recent hearing took place in January 2020 after Moreno flew sixteen hours to Seattle in the hopes of vacating a protection order he filed against her in 2015.
Pope’s continued abuse, she believes, can be blamed in large part on Seattle University for failing to take her seriously.
“The way I view it now, I’m embarrassed that I graduated from there,” she said. “I wish I would have never gone to law school.”
The university is sticking by its procedures for handling students who come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and violence, and its initial response to allegations around Pope.
“The university has and has had policies and protocols in place for responding to reports of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual misconduct, as well as a dedicated team of professionals to support, help and care for survivors,” a spokesperson for Seattle University said in a statement. “We take very seriously any complaints of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual misconduct and stand behind our record of addressing these matters with care, compassion, integrity and fairness.”
With Pope set to be extradited to Seattle by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office following his sentencing in New Mexico, Moreno is not out to find justice. She hopes the other women Pope has taken advantage of are able to find peace in his conviction, but for her it is too late.
“I’m not getting back my opportunity to be a law student or an academic,” she said. “I’m not getting back the time I was abused and stalked and harassed. I’m not going to get back the network that he went out of his way to destroy. I’m not going to get back the career or income that I don’t have from being an attorney with my fairly useless license.”
“I don’t know what justice actually looks like at this point,” she added. “I just want to be heard.”
CORRECTION: CHS has corrected the caption on the image of the Sundborg letter that erroneously described Sundborg providing the document for Pope to use in a domestic violence protection order hearing. Sundborg provided the letter to Pope as part of his admission to the State Bar and had given Pope permission to use the document as a letter of good character. The caption has been updated.
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