Attorney Says Maine Man’s Defamation Trial Should Focus on ‘sexual Abuse of Children’

By Beth Brogan
Bangor Daily News
July 7, 2015

Paul Kendrick of the Ignatius Group protests outside former Bishop Richard Malone's house in Falmouth Thursday April 26, 2012. Buy Photo

Opening arguments began Tuesday in the civil suit against a Freeport man sued in 2013 for defamation by a former Catholic brother from Haiti and his nonprofit organization.

Attorney Peter DeTroy described his client, 63-year-old Michael Geilenfeld, the former Catholic brother, as “a remarkable person … fueled by a dream to found a home for the cast-out, lost boys of Haiti.”

DeTroy then told the jury in U.S. District Court in Portland that Paul Kendrick, 65, of Freeport, an outspoken advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse, waged a “campaign of vicious, unrelenting and merciless attacks” on Geilenfeld that left him and Hearts with Haiti, the North-Carolina nonprofit for which he works, unable to raise money to rebuild orphanages following a 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

David Walker, who represents Kendrick, argued that his client was raising public awareness about alleged abuse of children. He told the jury Tuesday, “This case is about one thing, and that’s the sexual abuse of children.”

Walker on Tuesday ran through a list of allegations of sexual abuse by Geilenfeld that Kendrick’s attorney said began in 1987. He said evidence would show that board members of Hearts with Haiti met repeatedly about the issue, ultimately hiring a former Federal Bureau of Investigations official to investigate Geilenfeld before declining to release their report.

Both attorneys said they would present the jury with testimony from young men who lived in the orphanages that would support their cases.

The civil complaint that Kendrick defamed Geilenfeld, filed in February 2013, was amended after Geilenfeld’s release from a Haitian jail. It now includes a request for additional damages because of Geilenfeld’s “horrific experiences in prison.”

In a pre-trial brief filed last month, DeTroy claimed his client’s damages “far exceed[ed] $10 million.” The charity has claimed losses of more than $2 million in donations, according to court documents.

Geilenfeld was detained in Port au Prince in September while a criminal investigation into abuse allegations was conducted, according to previously published reports. He was released April 29 and was not charged with a crime.

Justice authorities in Haiti told The Associated Press in May that an appeal filed by lawyers for the alleged victims had been granted and the case will be re-examined.

DeTroy said Tuesday that Kendrick based his Internet campaign against Geilenfeld on “fragments” of other investigations in which Geilenfeld had been cleared, but Walker said that was not the case.

“After a straw trial that resulted in a dismissal, the justice department sanctioned the attorney and filed an appeal,” so the case remains unresolved, Walker said.

Given the nature of the abuse allegations and Kendrick’s history of bombastic protest against clergy abuse, U.S. DIstrict Court Judge John Woodcock on Monday advised both parties to refrain from courtroom theatrics.

“Given the nature of the case, during the course of the trial each of you will likely hear things about yourselves that you very profoundly disagree with and that strike you right to the core,” Woodcock told the two men. “What I’m urging you to do is not react.”

The civil trial before a 10-person jury is expected to last three weeks.








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