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lundi 23 juillet 2012
Suits by alleged Perlitz victims face first test. --- Twenty-two lawsuits seeking hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of 23 Haitian boys who claim they were sexually abused by Douglas Perlitz will meet their first legal test on Aug. 7.
HARTFORD -- Twenty-two lawsuits seeking hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of 23 Haitian boys who claim they were sexually abused by Douglas Perlitz will meet their first legal test on Aug. 7.
U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny set aside that afternoon to hear oral arguments from a small army of defense lawyers seeking to dismiss the cases on various legal grounds.
On that day Chatigny will listen to arguments from both sides, ask questions and request written legal briefs. He could write a decision by early next year.
An attempt to settle the cases failed during an all-day session July 9 in Boston.
For now Chatigny has consolidated the cases only for pretrial matters.
These civil cases arise out of allegations of sexual abuse at Project Pierre Toussaint, a program Perlitz, a Fairfield University graduate, created in Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second-largest city, to food, clothe and educate Haitian street boys. Fairfield and Westchester County Catholics raised millions for the program, which closed in 2009 after agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement division arrested Perlitz on charges that he sexually abused some of the boys.
A year later Perlitz pleaded guilty to one charge of traveling overseas to engage in sex with a minor but never disputed the prosecution's claim of many more victims. He is serving a federal sentence of 19 years and seven months.
A team of lawyers headed by Mitchell Garabedian of Boston and Steven Errante of New Haven have filed what soon will number 23 lawsuits on behalf of 24 alleged victims.
Garabedian, who has brought many sexual abuses cases against Catholic priests and their dioceses, said he could not estimate how many more there might be.
"Based on my experiences over the past 17 years, victims come forward at any time," he said.
These suits name Perlitz; the Rev. Paul Carrier, a former Fairfield University official who helped create the Haiti Fund as the fundraising arm for Perlitz's Project Pierre Toussaint; the Society of Jesus, Carrier's order; Hope Carter, a New Canaan philanthropist and Haiti Fund board member; the Order of Malta,American Association; Fairfield University; the Haiti Fund and 12 individuals referred to only as John Does.
The suits accuse the defendants of negligence for failing to properly train and supervise Perlitz and then investigate and terminate him after the allegations surfaced.
Defense lawyers maintain in their dismissal motions their clients had no responsibility for Perlitz or his actions. Several institutions, including Fairfield University, maintain Perlitz's program was a separate entity from them. All deny wrongdoing and only Perlitz was charged criminally.