PORTLAND, Maine — A federal judge has ordered a Freeport man being sued for slander over allegations of sexual abuse of boys at a Haitian orphanage to pay $8,000 toward the plaintiffs’ legal fees as punishment for defying a court order.
U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock did not say when Paul Kendrick, 65, would have to pay the Portland attorneys representing Hearts with Haiti, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that raised money for orphanages run by former Catholic brother Michael Geilenfeld.
The judge found on Feb. 20, following a hearing the previous month, that Kendrick had violated a court order not to make public documents that had been gathered during the discovery process. Lawyers for Hearts with Haiti sought more $28,000 in reimbursement. Kendrick’s attorneys, based in Bangor, said work on the motions seeking the sanction should have cost about $3,800.
Woodcock on Wednesday issued the order specifying how much Kendrick would be fined. Kendrick, who has maintained that Geilenfeld has sexually abused boys for decades, has said he would go to jail rather than pay the charity’s legal fees.
“I cannot in good conscience write a check to people who kept secret information that adversely affects the safety, protection and well-being of children,” Kendrick said in an email dated March 1. “I will not pay these lawyers one cent. If so ordered by the judge, I will sit in a jail cell.”
Kendrick said that as an alternative, he would make a donation to a Miami based nonprofit that provides education and “culturally competent counseling and therapy services to victims of child sexual abuse and their families in the Haitian community.”
Woodcock concluded in his most recent decision that the assessment of damages after would “be a preferable place to resolve the monetary dispute between the parties than a motion for sanctions” if a jury were to find Kendrick had slandered Hearts with Haiti and Geilenfeld.
“By contrast, if the jury determines that Mr. Kendrick has not defamed Mr. Geilenfeld and Hearts with Haiti, then the court will have punished Mr. Kendrick in a case where a jury ultimately sided with him,” the judge wrote in the order issued Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed in February 2013 in federal court in Portland, has been delayed and complicated by the arrest and detention of Geilenfeld in September by Haitian police. He remains detained in that country, but a decision on whether he will be charged is expected soon, Woodcock said in his order.
Haiti has an inquisitorial system of criminal justice in which a judge investigates the case and makes recommendations as to whether to proceed criminally, Woodcock wrote. The judge then hands the case over to a prosecutor for review. Once the judge receives the prosecutor’s comments, the judge must decide whether to issue “an ordinance,” which is similar to a probable cause determination before charges can be filed.
An update on the status of Geilenfeld’s case in Haiti could be given to Woodcock on Thursday, when a status conference with attorneys is scheduled to be held.