Freeport resident Paul Kendrick blames himself that an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found no evidence to support his widely broadcast claim that the American founder of an orphanage in Haiti had sexually abused many of the boys in his care.

Kendrick, 65, testified Tuesday in his own defense during the third week of his trial in U.S. District Court in Portland on civil charges of defamation and false imprisonment brought against him by the 63-year-old orphanage director, Michael Geilenfeld.

Kendrick said that a group of former residents of St. Joseph’s Home for Boys had admitted to him and to his associates in Haiti that Geilenfeld had sexually abused them, but he had not anticipated that the men wouldn’t repeat those accusations when they were interviewed by a federal Homeland Security investigator who flew to Haiti to talk to them.

Kendrick’s testimony grew testy at times, especially as Geilenfeld’s attorney, Peter DeTroy, cross-examined him pointedly about the Homeland Security investigation. That investigation was marked as closed in January 2013 without charges against Geilenfeld. But Kendrick testified agents have since told him a U.S. investigation remains pending.

DeTroy also questioned Kendrick about a lawsuit brought by Kendrick’s associates in the Haitian judicial system that put Geilenfeld in jail there for 237 days, before a Haitian judge dismissed the case. The Associated Press has reported that an appeal filed in Haiti has revived the case there against Geilenfeld.

Kendrick had spread his accusations against Geilenfeld so insistently – mostly through mass email blasts starting in January 2011 – that the Department of Homeland Security sent an investigator to Port-au-Prince and Jacmel in Haiti in October 2012 to interview several former orphanage residents who Kendrick said were Geilenfeld’s victims.

“Shame on me,” Kendrick said. “Shame on me (for thinking) that these men would walk into a room and confess with anyone.”

Those same Haitian men who wouldn’t make accusations to the Homeland Security investigator in 2012, however, did testify at this trial. Starting last week and into this week, those same former Haitian orphans now say that Geilenfeld did sexually abuse them.

Kendrick testified that he personally interviewed Emile Milien, the first former orphan to come forward, in January 2011 before he began his mass email campaign against Geilenfeld and the North Carolina charity Hearts with Haiti, which provided most of the orphanage funding.

Kendrick said he first became interested in the plight of the Haitian people, their poverty and misery, during two trips there in 2003. He has long been an activist against sexual abuse of children and became increasingly more active since the sexual abuse scandal broke in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in 2002.

“In my mind, the sexual abuse of a child is like taking a twig and snapping it and trying to put it back together,” Kendrick said, using both hands to make a breaking gesture before the 10-member jury hearing the case against him.

Kendrick’s attorney, David Walker, questioned him first about how he became aware of the accusations against Geilenfeld through a Haitian journalist, Cyrus Sibert, who had met the alleged victims and connected Kendrick with them.

“Do you believe the victims’ account?” Walker asked.

“I certainly do,” Kendrick replied.

DeTroy relied heavily during his cross-examination on emails that Kendrick himself wrote to Sibert to show that the two men – Kendrick in Maine and Sibert in Port-au-Prince – organized the former orphanage residents, sometimes paying their expenses, as they prepared their accusations against Geilenfeld.

One email shown to jurors on a projector screen was sent by Kendrick to Sibert after the Homeland Security agent interviewed the alleged orphanage victims and found no evidence of sexual abuse.

“If it were not for believing Emile (Milien), I would lose all confidence in the case,” Kendrick wrote.

DeTroy questioned Kendrick about his Maine banking records, which show Kendrick sent Sibert $1,000 before Geilenfeld was arrested by Haitian authorities and another $1,000 after Geilenfeld’s arrest on Sept. 5, 2014.

But at other times, Kendrick suggested DeTroy was reading too much into the emails and money he sent to Haiti to pay for things like phone cards and travel expenses as he organized his defense to the defamation lawsuit.

“Wow, are you twisting facts, sir,” Kendrick said to DeTroy at one point. “You know from testimony of Haiti victims that there had been sexual abuse.”

At another point, Kendrick seemed offended by DeTroy’s question.

“Mr. Geilenfeld, sir, is a serial child molester,” Kendrick said.

Lawyers are expected to make their closing arguments in the trial Wednesday or Thursday after the conclusion of witness testimony.

 


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