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July 24, 2015

Orphanage Head and Charity Win $14.5 Million Defamation Award

A Maine jury awarded $7 million Thursday to the founder of an orphanage in Haiti and $7.5 million to an affiliated North Carolina charity in a defamation case over claims of child sexual abuse, reports the Portland Press Herald.

The jury said Paul Kendrick of Freeport, Me., was reckless and negligent in mounting an email campaign beginning in January 2011 accusing Michael Geilenfeld of molesting boys in his care at the facility in Port-au-Prince and calling on Haitian authorities to prosecute him.

Mr. Geilenfeld has repeatedly denied abuse claims by former residents of the St. Joseph's Home for Boys and filed suit against Mr. Kendrick in 2013, asserting among other things that the email campaign cost Hearts With Haiti, a North Carolina group that raises money for the orphanage, about $2 million in donations. Mr. Kendrick also claimed the charity was aware of the alleged abuse but took no action.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to charge Mr. Geilenfeld after investigating the allegations in 2012 and '13, and a Haitian judge dismissed a criminal case against him earlier this year.