- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - A man who accused the founder of a Haitian orphanage of child abuse and was hit with a defamation lawsuit defended himself in court on Thursday by saying he was trying to protect poor and vulnerable children.

Orphanage founder Michael Geilenfeld and Raleigh, North Carolina-based Hearts with Haiti brought the civil lawsuit against Paul Kendrick. Kendrick had accused Geilenfeld of molesting boys who were in his care.

Kendrick took the witness stand for the first time on Thursday, two days after lawyers gave opening statements.

Kendrick and his attorney are making the case the trial will vindicate the boys’ accounts of sexual abuse, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network (https://bit.ly/1LUThQo) reported. Seven of the boys are expected to testify.

Geilenfeld’s lawyers blame Kendrick for Geilenfeld’s arrest in Haiti last year. A judge cleared Geilenfeld of any crime, but Haiti’s justice minister has said the verdict was improperly reached and there will be additional proceedings.

Geilenfeld’s lawyers also have said Kendrick’s online campaign devastated Geilenfeld’s reputation and crippled his fundraising efforts. The plaintiffs say testimony will support damages in excess of more than $10 million.

Both sides have said they expect the trial to last until close to the end of the month.

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