Defamation Trial Opens over Haiti Sex Abuse Claims

By Sheri Qualters
National Law Journal
July 6, 2015

A trial opens today in Maine federal court against a man who claimed in Internet postings and blast emails that a missionary sexually abused Haitian children and that a U.S. nonprofit enabled him.

The plaintiffs are Hearts with Haiti Inc., the Raleigh-based nonprofit, and Michael Geilenfeld, executive director of St. Joseph Family of Haiti, which provides housing, education and other services to children. Hearts with Haiti supports St. Joseph Family. They sued Freeport, Maine, resident Paul Kendrick, alleging defamation.

“The court has been convinced for quite some time that this intractable and emotional dispute can only be resolved by a trial, where the parties, represented by extremely able counsel, put the merits of their claims and defenses before a jury,” U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. (left) wrote on July 1. He denied the plaintiffs’ motion seeking the names of all recipients of the defendant’s emails from three accounts.

The case, which dates to February 2013, claims Kendrick began a “malicious campaign of outrageous conduct” in January 2011, without having met any of the plaintiffs’ employees, staff, volunteers or other associates. The plaintiffs claim Kendrick disseminated false accusations via blogs, website postings, email and a radio interview.

The conduct caused them “severe financial harm” that lessened their ability to care for Haitian children, they alleged.

Kendrick said his accusations reflect allegations by seven men who will testify that Geilenfeld abused them as children at an orphanage in Haiti.








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