Jamaican News

Jury weighs defamation claim against Mainer who accused orphanage founder of molesting boys

By David Sharp



PORTLAND, Maine _ A lawyer for a Haiti orphanage founder on Thursday likened a Maine activist to a cyberbully and vigilante whose reckless accusations of child sexual abuse ruined the man’s reputation and cost a charity several million dollars in donations.

The lawyer for activist Paul Kendrick told jurors hearing the defamation lawsuit that they would have to ignore the testimony of seven accusers in order to award damages.

The jury began deliberations Thursday after hearing closing arguments in the lawsuit brought by Michael Geilenfeld, founder of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port au Prince, and a U.S. charity, Hearts with Haiti, which provided funding for the orphanage.

Geilenfeld’s lawyer, Peter DeTroy, told jurors that Kendrick was out to ruin Geilenfeld from the beginning by publicizing unsubstantiated claims.

“He has one goal: ‘I’m going to destroy you. I’m going to bring you down. I’m going to put you in prison.’ And he did,” DeTroy told jurors.

Kendrick, an activist for sexual abuse victims, launched a campaign in late 2011 in which he sent out email blasts to hundreds of people accusing Geilenfeld of being a serial pedophile and North Carolina-based Hearts with Haiti of refusing to do anything about him.

Kendrick, 65, helped to form the state chapter of lay group Voice of the Faithful at the height of the clergy sex-abuse crisis that rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

He’s known for dogged, in-your-face tactics.

Geilenfeld contends Kendrick’s accusations caused him to be falsely imprisoned for 237 days and cost Hearts with Haiti more than $2 million in donations.

He was released from jail in Haiti in April after a judge cleared him of criminal charges during a one-day trial. Haiti‘s justice minister has said the verdict was improperly reached, and lawyers for the accusers are appealing the outcome.

The trial in Maine painted two different pictures of Geilenfeld: One was the former Catholic brother who was inspired by his work with Mother Teresa to do good works. The other was of a man who sexually abused some of the street kids who came to him for help.

Geilenfeld testified that he’d been dogged in Haiti by false abuse accusations because he was a gay man in an island nation that he described as homophobic. He said all accusations were dispelled, and he decried Kendrick’s accusations as “vicious, vile lies.”

The accusations surrounding Geilenfeld, 63, had existed for years before Kendrick learned of them and went on the offensive, said David Walker, Kendrick’s lawyer.

“Mr. Geilenfeld is here to sue Mr. Kendrick for ruining his reputation. At the end of the day, Mr. Geilenfeld has a reputation that he deserves,” he said.


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