Man who accused orphanage founder of abuse targeted by suit
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An outspoken Roman Catholic who advocates for child sexual abuse victims has been relentless in targeting those he believes have mistreated children or covered up for abusers. A jury that was seated Monday will decide whether the combative activist went too far in a campaign against an orphanage founder in Haiti.
Hearts With Haiti, a nonprofit that raises money for the orphanage, and the U.S. citizen who founded the orphanage have accused activist Paul Kendrick of spreading falsehoods that have cost the charity more than $2 million in donations.
Kendrick said he’s eager for jurors in the defamation lawsuit to hear accusers testify in federal court about what he described as “unspeakable acts” performed by Michael Geilenfeld.
The trial, which begins with opening statements on Tuesday, is expected to last about three weeks. The plaintiffs, who say testimony will support damages in excess of more than $10 million, said in a court document that Kendrick has exhibited a “maniacal refusal against all reason” to acknowledge that his accusations were false and egregious.
“The defendant sets out to wreck careers, scare, harass, and humiliate kind-hearted, good people, with his recklessly leveled charges of support for child molesters or child abuse,” a lawyer wrote.
Kendrick, who lives in Freeport, Maine, said he’s giving a voice to those who needed one. “I raised the allegations for those who’ve been trying to do so for 25 years,” he said Monday.
While critics contend Kendrick is shrill and overzealous, his supporters say his tactics are sometimes necessary to obtain justice.
Lawyers for Raleigh, North Carolina-based Hearts With Haiti said Kendrick aggressively targeted Geilenfeld, a former member of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity group who founded the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port au Prince in 1985. They hold Kendrick responsible for Geilenfeld’s arrest last fall in Haiti.
Geilenfeld was released in April after a judge cleared him of criminal charges during a one-day trial in which none of the accusers was present. Haiti’s justice minister has said the verdict was improperly reached and there will be additional proceedings.
As the U.S. defamation suit gets underway, emotions are running so high that Judge John A. Woodcock took time to address the need for decorum with both parties while the jury was out of the Portland courtroom.
“Each of you will hear things that you profoundly disagree with and strike you to the core,” the judge said. “What I’m urging you to do is to not react. This is the way we resolve disputes in a civilized society.”