PORTLAND, Maine — A federal judge ordered a Freeport man accused of defaming a former Catholic priest to pay his opponents’ legal fees as punishment for defying a court order.
U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock on Friday found Paul Kendrick in contempt of court for releasing confidential information gathered in the discovery process of a lawsuit against him.
As punishment, Woodcock ordered Kendrick to pay for the work the opposing attorneys did in reaction to that release of confidential information. But the judge stopped short of granting the plaintiffs a default judgment in the case, a sanction sought by the plaintiffs and one that would have effectively found Kendrick guilty of the greater defamation claim before ever reaching trial.
Former Catholic brother Michael Geilenfeld and a nonprofit in which he’s involved are suing Kendrick for defamation — Kendrick publicly accused the former priest of sexually abusing children — as Geilenfeld faces potential criminal sex abuse charges in Haiti.
Hearts With Haiti is a North Carolina-based nonprofit that raises money for three orphanages and a day school in Haiti run by Geilenfeld.
Kendrick has insisted Geilenfeld abused Haitian boys he took in at the facilities. About 19 months after Geilenfeld and the nonprofit filed their lawsuit against Kendrick, Geilenfeld was arrested in Haiti on sex abuse charges.
Geilenfeld remains in a Haitian jail, and the court there is expected to issue its equivalent of a probable cause determination between late February and late March, his attorney, Devin Deane said in a late January hearing.
Deane said that will determine whether Geilenfeld goes to trial on the criminal charges in Haiti.
In that January hearing in Portland, Kendrick admitted to releasing confidential emails, as well as excerpts from depositions and a private investigation, gathered in the discovery process of the defamation lawsuit.
Kendrick released the confidential information through widely distributed emails or posts on a colleague’s blog. But he told the court he did so because he believed the information revealed Haitian children were still in danger of abuse at the nonprofit’s facilities.
Deane urged Woodcock to impose heavy sanctions on Kendrick for distributing the information, in part because Kendrick had already previously been warned by Magistrate Judge John Rich not to release confidential court documents.
Woodcock acknowledged the seriousness of defying a court order, but said at the time he was reluctant to rule on the sanctions until he knew whether Geilenfeld was found guilty in Haiti, and said the confidential information released by Kendrick would be made public when the defamation lawsuit goes to trial anyway.