Michael Geilenfeld, the American founder of an orphanage for boys in Haiti, testified Monday that he had never heard of Freeport resident Paul Kendrick before Kendrick’s first email arrived on Jan. 31, 2011, accusing him of sexually abusing children in his care.

“I never sexually abused children anywhere,” Geilenfeld said. “I did not know what he was relying on. … This is the first time I had heard from him.”

Geilenfeld said that after that first email, he would awake nearly every day at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-au-Prince to find new “blitzes” of emails from Kendrick to more than 500 recipients claiming that Geilenfeld was a pedophile.

Geilenfeld filed a federal lawsuit against Kendrick in 2013, accusing him of defamation.

Geilenfeld’s testimony came as the defamation trial entered its second week in U.S. District Court in Portland. He testified all day Monday and is expected to return to the witness stand Tuesday.

The trial was supposed to begin in October but was delayed after Geilenfeld was imprisoned in Haiti while police investigated Kendrick’s claims. Criminal charges against Geilenfeld were dropped in April, but only after he spent 237 days locked up. Haitian officials have since told the Associated Press that attorneys for alleged abuse victims have petitioned to have the case re-examined.

Geilenfeld’s attorney, Peter DeTroy, said he expects to question Geilenfeld on Tuesday about his time in a Haitian prison before one of Kendrick’s attorneys begins cross-examination.

U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. said he expects jurors will be asked to focus on two central issues at the end of the trial next week: whether Kendrick’s allegations against Geilenfeld are false and, if so, whether Kendrick made those allegations negligently.

Geilenfeld sat just feet away from the jury of eight women and two men Monday, describing his childhood in Iowa and early missionary work abroad before finding his calling in Haiti.

Geilenfeld told the jurors that he is gay and that Haiti is a “very homophobic” country. His sexual orientation has led to his being accused of child sex abuse several times in the past, though those allegations were quickly dispelled, he testified.

“There was a perception in Haiti that a homosexual was a freak of nature and also equated to a child molester,” Geilenfeld said.

Geilenfeld founded the orphanage in 1985 and was first accused of abuse in 1987, while on a fundraising tour with some of the boys in Boston. The boys who made that first allegation against him recanted within 24 hours, he testified.

Geilenfeld was accused of child sex abuse again in 1990, and the Haitian Department of Social Services determined that those allegations, too, were unfounded, he said.

Then in 1995, he was accused again of sexual misconduct while on another fundraising tour with boys in Detroit. He said he was cleared again after a court hearing and returned to Haiti with his orphan charges.

“These allegations to me were just vicious, vile lies,” Geilenfeld said.

Geilenfeld said he was particularly struck by the date of Kendrick’s first email to him on Jan. 31, 2011, because it came on the 26th anniversary of his founding of the orphanage, which was a time of yearly celebration.

DeTroy showed jurors an enlarged reproduction of Kendrick’s first email on a projector screen in the courtroom and read aloud one line that Kendrick wrote: “There are substantiated reports that he is sexually abusing children in Haiti.”

DeTroy read aloud another email that Kendrick wrote that same day minutes later: “We know you are raping innocent Haitian children.”

“This had the potential to blow up and destroy not just me but the whole family, the work I have given my life to,” Geilenfeld testified of his reaction to the emails. “(Kendrick) never has set foot to this day at St. Joseph’s.”

Geilenfeld’s lawsuit claims that Kendrick’s accusations have resulted in the loss of at least $2 million in donations to Hearts of Haiti, the nonprofit organization that raises money for Geilenfeld’s orphanage. While the suit was pending, Geilenfeld added a charge of wrongful imprisonment, accusing Kendrick for his imprisonment in Haiti.


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