By David Sharp
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PORTLAND, Maine _ An orphan who grew up on the streets of Haiti said he was grateful to find food, clean clothes and shelter at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince. But he says the orphanage founder who took in street kids also sexually abused him.
Daniel Madrigal on Thursday described his arrival as a teenager at the orphanage as “the most beautiful day of my life,” but said he was later kicked out after rejecting the founder’s sexual advances.
His testimony, and that of other former orphans, is key in a defamation lawsuit filed by orphanage founder Michael Geilenfeld and a U.S. charity, Hearts with Haiti. They sued a Maine man who advocates for child sexual abuse victims and sought to publicize the molestation allegations against Geilenfeld through a campaign starting late in 2011. Geilenfeld has denied sexually abusing children.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, but Madrigal has consented to being identified, saying he wanted to tell his story.
The federal jury’s decision could come down to whether they believe Madrigal and six other accusers, five of whom are testifying via videotape.
Madrigal, now an adult who lives in the Boston area, told jurors he was warned when he arrived at St. Joseph’s that “the blanc guy” _ the white guy _ will “touch you.”
He said he’d been at the orphanage for eight or nine months when he was invited to Geilenfeld’s room, where Geilenfeld gave him a Walkman and two cassettes before touching his genitals through his pants. After that, he said, a friend joked, “He likes you!”
A second time, he said, Geilenfeld touched him and put his mouth on his penis and later beat him because he rejected the man’s advances. He said Geilenfeld told him he’d have to make “a sacrifice” if he wanted help in pursuing his dream of living in the U.S.
Madrigal told jurors that he was sent to another home for orphans and then told to stay away from St. Joseph’s and from Geilenfeld. He said he and a friend told a Haitian child welfare agency what had happened but were told to keep quiet.
“He said: ‘You’re not in this family any more. You talk too much. You don’t want to sacrifice,” Madrigal said of Geilenfeld. He was given money and told not to return.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock said jurors will likely be asked to focus on whether activist Paul Kendrick’s molestation allegations were false and whether they were made negligently.
Geilenfeld and his attorneys blame Kendrick, a Freeport man who helped form the lay group Voice of the Faithful at the height of the clergy sex-abuse crisis, for Geilenfeld’s arrest in Haiti last fall on child molestation charges. He was released after 237 days when a judge dismissed charges. Attorneys for the accusers have petitioned to have the case re-examined.
Geilenfeld and Hearts with Haiti, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based charity that raises money for his orphanage, contend the accusations cost the orphanage more than $2 million in donations.
His lawyers hinted at their strategy of discrediting the accusers in questions about a civil lawsuit and the potential for a big payday for victims of sexual abuse. They also pointed out that Madrigal seemed to be friendly to Geilenfeld in social media chats with a friend and former orphan after leaving Haiti.
Madrigal eventually made his way to the Dominican Republic, where he was adopted, took on his current name and met a woman from the U.S. He married her and became a U.S. citizen.
He said he has not interested in seeking money from Geilenfeld because he’s already financially successful. He said he has a six-figure salary and homes in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
“I’m not Michael’s victim,” he said. “I’m a survivor.”