A group of Haitian nationals have filed lawsuits in the U.S. alleging a priest now living in Connecticut, among others, failed to protect them from a child predator while they were students at a school for disadvantage youth in Haiti. According to the Boston Globe, the former students allege they were abused for over a decade by Douglas Perlitz, 42, former director of Project Pierre Toussaint in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
Perlitz is currently serving a 19 and 1/2 year prison sentence after admitting in 2010 to abusing eight Project Pierre Toussaint students. According to a report from CTPost.com, Catholic parishioners in Connecticut’s Fairfield and Westchester counties raised millions for Project Pierre Toussaint, but it was shut down in 2009 after Perlitz was arrested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on charges that he sexually abused some of the boys at the school.
In addition to the Rev. Paul E. Carrier, a Jesuit priest, the lawsuits name Fairfield University and the Society of Jesus of New England among the defendants. The complaints, filed in federal court in Connecticut, claim the defendants established the school, provided funding for it, and ignored signs that Perlitz was abusing students there. Plaintiffs allege the abuse occurred between 1998 and 2008 when the victims were between the ages of 9 and 21.
The lawsuits allege that Carrier, who served as a director of a non-profit affiliated with Project Pierre Toussaint, witnessed underage students in Perlitz’s bedroom in Haiti, saw Perlitz show at least one student a pornographic video, and was present at least once when Perlitz arranged a meeting with a boy for later in the evening. Carrier is also accused of obstructing investigations into Perlitz’s conduct.
According to the Boston Globe, Carrier served as chaplain at Fairfeld University for 18 years until April 2006 at the direction of the Society of Jesus of New England.
The plaintiffs will face their first court test on August 7, when U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny will hear oral arguments from defense attorneys seeking to dismiss the lawsuits.
So far, a total of 23 former students of the school have filed lawsuits against Carrier and the other defendants, with each seeking $20 million. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs say they are investigating other claims, and could file additional lawsuits in the future.