Thursday, April 25, 2024

Haitians to get their day in U.S. court


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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – A federal defamation lawsuit may become the only venue for young men from Haiti to air abuse allegations in open court following the dismissal of a case against the orphanage founder accused of assaulting them when they were boys in Port-au-Prince, according to the target of the defamation lawsuit.

Lawyers involved in the defamation case say it will go forward now that Michael Geilenfeld has been released from custody and charges against him have been dismissed.

Paul Kendrick, the defendant in the defamation lawsuit, said he welcomes the trial in U.S. District Court in Maine where the men can testify openly about what Geilenfeld allegedly did to them. The men didn’t get to testify before the judge who dismissed the criminal case against Geilenfeld in Haiti.

“I want the world to hear their testimony. This man did disgusting and despicable things to them when they were children. And they will be able to tell their stories here in a U.S. courtroom,” Kendrick said.

Geilenfeld, who has denied abusing children, founded the St Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-Au-Prince in 1985. It grew to encompass three homes, a guest house for missionaries and a dance troupe that promoted the organization.

Kendrick, of Freeport, is a co-founder of the Maine chapter of the Catholic lay reform group Voice of the Faithful, which was formed during the clergy sex abuse crisis. In his role as advocate for child sex abuse victims, Kendrick learned of allegations against Geilenfeld and began a campaign against him 2011.

“These aren’t my allegations. They’re their allegations,” he said of the alleged victims.

Geilenfeld’s lawyers hold Kendrick’s email and blog campaign responsible for Geilenfeld’s arrest in Haiti. The arrest put on hold the lawsuit brought against Kendrick in 2013 by the 63-year-old Geilenfeld and Hearts with Haiti, a North Carolina non-profit that raises money for the orphanage.

Now the lawsuit accusing Kendrick of making “false and heinous” allegations of child sexual and physical abuse will proceed to trial, as early as this summer, lawyers say.

Peter DeTroy, lawyer for Geilenfeld and Hearts of Haiti, said his clients are looking forward to their day in court. The defamation lawsuit seeks damages, and Geilenfeld said Kendrick’s accusations cost his organisation more than $1.5 million in donations.

The activist is unrepentant in his continuing efforts, including defying a judge’s order in releasing confidential documents about the case.

On Wednesday, he said he was disappointed that the alleged victims weren’t notified of the trial in Haiti, calling the trial a “kangaroo court”.

He and his lawyer said some of the victims will testify in federal court in Maine, while others will testify via video deposition. “I expect that the victims’ testimony will carry the defence and, at the end of the day, Mr Kendrick will be vindicated,” said David Walker, his lawyer.


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