PORTLAND, Maine — Having had a $14.5 million defamation judgment in their favor overturned in federal court, the nonprofit organization and the former Catholic brother linked by a Freeport man to unproven abuse allegations involving Haitian orphans are now seeking redress in state court.
Attorneys for Hearts with Haiti, Inc., headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Michael Geilenfeld, 64, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, sued Paul Kendrick, 66, on Monday in Cumberland County Superior Court.
The new lawsuit claims Kendrick, an advocate for children sexually abused by clergy, was reckless and negligent in publicly accusing former Catholic brother Geilenfeld of molesting children in his care and accusing the charity of ignoring abuse allegations against Geilenfeld.
Kendrick posted accusations online, sent out mass emails and mailed letters to potential Hearts with Haiti donors alleging that Geilenfeld sexually abused orphans in his care. On Sunday, he again accused Geilenfeld of sexually abusing children in Haiti.
A 2012 investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found no evidence of abuse, according to Geilenfeld’s attorneys. Haitian officials jailed Geilenfeld in Port-au-Prince for more than 200 days but dropped all charges and released him a few months before last year’s trial in federal court.
The new complaint mirrors the one filed in February 2013 in U.S. District Court in Portland. In addition to Kendrick’s alleged defamation between 2011 and 2015, the new suit also outlines Kendrick’s alleged conduct since July 23, 2015, when a federal jury awarded Hearts with Haiti $7.5 million and Geilenfeld $7 million in damages.
That verdict was set aside in June when U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock ruled that the federal court did not have jurisdiction over the case because most of Geilenfeld’s assets and affairs are in Haiti and not Iowa, where he was born and stays when in this country.
Woodcock’s decision has been appealed to the 1st U.S. District Court of Appeals in Boston.
“This action is brought to ensure remedy in the event the judgment is not vacated on appeal,” the suit filed Monday said.
The new complaint alleges that despite the jury’s verdict, Kendrick has “continued to so threaten Geilenfeld and his supporters at Hearts with Haiti with physical and bodily harm and ruined reputations in the Haitian communities in which they operate, that it became no longer safe for Geilenfeld to travel to Haiti; and the operations of Hearts with Haiti in Haiti continued to be disrupted by Kendrick false statements and destructive conduct.”
Kendrick issued a statement Sunday announcing that he’d been told the new complaint would be filed.
“We will not be sidetracked by responding to each and every email warning I distributed to ensure the protection of children,” he said. “Instead, we will focus on the prosecution of Michael Geilenfeld for the sexual abuse of children in Haiti.”