More lawsuits allege sex abuse at Haiti school

Thursday, November 07, 2013

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NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) — A US university and others that supported a charity designed to help feed and educate boys in Haiti are facing additional lawsuits alleging children were sexually abused by a school founder.

The 21 new federal lawsuits, filed Thursday in Connecticut, allege the defendants, who also include the Society of Jesus of New England and others, were negligent in their hiring and supervision of Douglas Perlitz. The suits seek US$20 million in damages for each victim.

Fairfield University in Connecticut and others reached a $12 million settlement in July with children sexually abused by Perlitz. He was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing boys who attended Project Pierre Toussaint School in Cap-Haitien.

Stanley Twardy Jr, an attorney for Fairfield University, declined to comment. A message left with a Jesuit spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

"These poverty-stricken sexual abuse victims are showing an enormous amount of courage by coming forward, reporting the sexual abuse and filing complaints," said Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for the alleged victims.

Garabedian said he's investigating another 30 claims of sexual abuse by Perlitz.

Twardy has said none of the defendants acknowledged any liability in the settlement.

"It is our hope that this money will help those who were harmed by Douglas Perlitz," Alice Poltorick, provincial assistant for communications for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus, said in July.

Perlitz founded the Haiti school in 1997 when he lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Prosecutors said Perlitz abused at least 16 children, then gave them money, food, clothing and electronics and threatened to take everything away and expel them from the programme if they told anyone.

The abuse scandal led to the collapse of the school and its fundraising arm, the Haiti Fund, forcing the children back onto the streets, prosecutors have said.

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