|Perlitz Court Date Moved, Groups Raise Awareness of Perlitz, O'Brien Cases|
By Tom Cleary
The Fairfield Mirror
October 15, 2009
FAIRFIELD (CT) — Sexual assault awareness groups and Haitian activists have stepped up the pressure on U.S. Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis, encouraging her to not release Doug Perlitz '92 when he goes before her again in New Haven on Oct. 28.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, held a sidewalk press conference outside of the gates of Fairfield University on Thursday afternoon, while Haitian activist Ezili Danto/Marguerite Laurent, has started a letter-writing campaign, encouraging letters to be sent to Margolis.
Meanwhile. the hearing date was moved from Tuesday Oct. 19 to Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m., in New Haven at the Richard C. Lee United States Court House. While no reason for the shift was provided by Thomas Carson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Ezili Danto said in an email she is worried the move may deter those planning to attend from coming on Oct. 28.
"This is a sign of the intense efforts on the parts of Perlitz' people to get him off on bond. They know we had intended to be in court on the 19th in full force," Ezili Danto said in her email. "Please do not let this postponement stop our efforts to give voice to the voiceless children of Haiti affected by the Doug Perlitz case. Let's redouble our efforts, keep sending letters to the judge."
Perlitz's attorney, William F. Dow III, said to the Connecticut Post, that he is worried the actions of Ezili Danto and Paul Kendrick '72, another activist, will taint the jury pool and make it difficult for people to assume Perlitz's innocence.
"When people bring out the pitchforks and the torches, they infect everybody and cripple the presumption of innocence," Dow said to the Post.
But Kendrick replied in the same article, ""there is nothing to stop him from using prepaid phone cards or prepaid cell phones to continue his threats and intimidation of his victims in Haiti."
SNAP Holds Sidewalk Press Conference Outside University Gates
On Thursday at 1 p.m. two members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, spoke to reporters outside of the gates of Fairfield University on North Benson Rd. to raise awareness about the sexual abuse scandals involving both Perlitz and former Fairfield Prep principal, Fr. Eugene O'Brien.
Perlitz is charged with 10 counts related to allegations that he abused boys at Project Pierre Toussaint, a school he founded in Haiti. O'Brien worked at Fairfield Prep from 1983 to 1985 and he allegedly abused a teenaged student in the 1970s while working at Fordham Prep in the Bronx. A settlement of $25,000 was reached between the Jesuits and his accuser, according to a New York Times article.
"We want to call on the Jesuits to use their resources to help seek out other victims," said Jim Hackett, an abuse survivor and member of SNAP. "We hope they work with the prosecutors to ensure he [Perlitz] is tried. We do not want them to partake in the tactics the Catholic church has used in the past – duck and dodge and intimidate those who bring charges."
Hackett spoke along with Gail Howard, a fellow member of the group and survivor.
"We want to know when did the support for Perlitz originate, how was it handled, when did [the University] learn what was going on and what did they do when they learned of it," said Howard. "We want them to actively make sure he is never back on the streets."
Hackett and Howard also requested that the University send a letter to Margolis, asking her not to release Perlitz on bond.
SNAP hopes that as more attention is brought to cases like the Perlitz and O'Brien cases, other victims will come out with their stories. Hackett and Howard said that they expect that there are more victims, especially of O'Brien, who are afraid to speak up.
"Everytime a story comes out, two or three or more [victims] come forward. I was molested in 1976 in Hamden and kept it between myself and my parents for 25 years," Hackett said.
In 2002 a case was brought against Hackett's abuser and he said that gave him the courage to come forward with his story.
"I learned that I was not the only one," Hackett added.
Haitian attorney, activist starts letter-writing campaign to keep Perlitz behind bars
Ezili Danto, the President of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, wrote an article on Salon.com encouraging supporters of Haitian children to send letters to Margolis encouraging her to keep Perlitz in prison throughout his trial.
Ezili Danto said that her organization has known about the case since 2005, but let it play out in the correct channels. When she learned that the judge was even considering releasing Perlitz, she decided it was time to speak out.
"It is not the norm to release accused pedophiles back into the community. That the access to funds, the Western narrative and privilege, could further endanger the lives of these children is horrifying, as it was privilege and access that seems to have allowed this crime of opportunity in the first place – that is, if the allegation are prove," said Ezili Danto. "Perlitz's resources ought not to be used against these children again."
Ezili Danto has written frequently on sexual tourism involving Americans in Haiti and believes that members of the Fairfield community stumbled into a bigger problem than they knew, providing money thinking it was helping Haitian children, while really hurting them.
"I am sad that good people with good intentions are brought into such a hellish case," Ezili Danto said. "But sexual tourism is not new. The use of Haiti's pain and negative neocolonial image to further exploit Haitians is not new. It has been going on in Haiti and Africa since the days of the old missionaries."
Activist Paul Kendrick '72, another activist for sexual abuse victims has also encouraged letters be sent to Margolis, and sent a letter of his own. The lengthy letter breaks down the reasons for why Perlitz should not be released. He also sent a letter to Dow, Perlitz's attorney, asking him to "act as a responsible and accountable member of the community by using your own common sense to help protect children from being sexually abused."
He also stated that if Perlitz is released into the Fairfield community, he and other activists will warn the neighbors that Perlitz is living near them.
"If you and Perlitz get your way, Mr. Dow, we will distribute warning leaflets to neighbors about Perlitz's background and dangerous presence in the Fairfield community," Kendrick wrote in the conclusion of his letter. "After all, children depend upon the adults in their lives to protect them."
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