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Child abuse watchdog will pay a price for defying court order to warn Haiti about accused cleric

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Priest in handcuffs (Shutterstock)

A federal judge ordered a Maine blogger to pay some legal fees in a defamation case filed against him by a former Catholic cleric charged with sexually abusing children in Haiti.

Paul Kendrick has long insisted that Michael Geilenfeld, a former Catholic brother, sexually abused children while serving as executive director of St. Joseph Orphanage in Port-Au-Prince, reported the Bangor Daily News.

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Geilenfeld and the North Carolina-based Hearts With Haiti sued Kendrick in February 2013, claiming the allegations had defamed the U.S. citizen and the charity and harmed fundraising efforts.

About 19 months after the lawsuit was filed, Geilenfeld was arrested in Haiti on sex abuse charges.

Kendrick admitted last month that he defied a court order by releasing confidential information turned up during the discovery process of the defamation lawsuit.

He told the court he shared confidential information and posted about the case on a colleague’s blog because he believed the evidence proved children remained in danger of abuse at facilities run by the nonprofit group.

U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock found Kendrick in contempt of court Friday and ordered him to pay for work done by attorneys responding to his release of confidential information.

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But the judge denied a request for default judgment that would have effectively found Kendrick guilty of defamation before the case went to trial.

Woodcock said he was reluctant to levy additional sanctions against Kendrick, despite the seriousness of defying a court order, until he knew whether Geilenfeld was found guilty.

The judge also conceded the confidential information released by Kendrick would likely be made public when the defamation suit goes to trial.

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