Freeport man seeks new trial in alleged Haiti abuse case

By Judy Harrison
Bangor Daily News
August 25, 2015

Paul Kendrick, an outspoken advocate for victims of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, stands outside the Falmouth home of former Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland Bishop Richard Malone.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Freeport man whom a jury last month found was reckless and negligent in publicly accusing a former Catholic brother of molesting children has filed a motion for a new trial.

Paul Kendrick claims in the motion that Maine law does not entitle Michael Geilenfeld to damages for the time Geilenfeld was jailed in Haiti.

The jury awarded Geilenfeld and an affiliated nonprofit, Hearts with Haiti, $14.5 million in damages for harm to his and the organization’s reputation and for direct fundraising losses the jury found were attributable to a scandal prompted by Paul Kendrick’s allegations from 2011 through this year.

The jury’s decision included $2.5 million in damages on claims Kendrick was negligent and reckless in his statements about Hearts with Haiti. The jury awarded Geilenfeld $7 million on similar claims.

Another $5 million was awarded to Hearts with Haiti based on interference with its business, or fundraising losses.

Attorneys for Geilenfeld, who was born in the U.S., and Hearts with Haiti, based in North Carolina, last week filed a motion seeking pre- and post-judgment interests on the damage awards.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, who presided over the three-week trial in Portland, has not set dates for hearings on the motions. Both motions are fairly standard in civil trials when damages are awarded.

The trial was the second time allegations against Geilenfeld, who was imprisoned 237 days in Haiti during an investigation of those claims, were outlined in court. Alleged victims have appealed a Haitian judge’s decision not to prosecute Geilenfeld on sex abuse claims in Haiti.

That pending appeal is why Geilenfeld is not entitled to damages, Kendrick’s attorney Brent Singer of Bangor argued in the motion for a new trial dated Thursday.

“Mr. Geilenfeld would not have been able to recover damages in a malicious prosecution case for suffering in jail unless he proved that the criminal proceeding had been terminated in his favor,” Singer wrote. “Criminal charges are not considered ‘terminated in favor of a plaintiff’ when an appeal is pending during which the plaintiff may be convicted.”

The lawyer also said Geilenfeld cannot recover damages because his attorneys “did not present evidence from which the jury could have reasonable found that a defamatory statement made by Mr. Kendrick actually caused Mr. Geilenfeld to be arrested.”

Peter DeTroy, one of the Portland attorneys representing Geilenfeld and Hearts With Haiti, declined Tuesday in an email to comment on the motion.

Devin Deane, the Portland attorney who wrote the motion seeking pre- and post-judgement interest, said Tuesday in an email he estimated the pre-trial judgement interest would be more than $500,000.

The pre-judgment interest rate is 3.16 percent, according to the motion.

It should be calculated daily from Feb. 6, 2013, when the lawsuit was filed, until Sept. 23, 2014 and from Dec. 23, 2014 until July 24, 2015, when the judgement was entered the day after the jury reached its verdict.

The motion did not ask for pre-judgment interest for the 90 days the trial was delayed because of Geilenfeld’s incarceration.

The post-judgement interest should be calculated at 0.28 percent calculated daily and compounded annually beginning July 24, 2015, until the judgement is paid, the motion said.

Deane also urged the judge to impose against Kendrick the $8,000 contempt sanction because he has lost the case. The monetary penalty was imposed in February after Woodcock found Kendrick repeatedly violated an order not to disclose confidential information obtained through the discovery process before the trial.

Kendrick told the judge at a hearing in January that he defied the court order because he believed more children were in imminent danger of abuse.

Singer, in his motion for a new trial, asked the judge to set aside the contempt sanction.


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