(FinalCall.com) – Once praised for good deeds, a U.S. charity worker goes to jail for raping boys who needed helpA Haitian activist and lawyer declared December 21 “a good day for justice and decency” after a federal judge sentenced convicted pedophile Douglas Perlitz to almost 20 years in prison for molesting eight boys in Haiti.
Mr. Perlitz opened the Project Pierre Toussaint School for homeless children in Cap-Haitien in 1997, and it was there, under the guise of providing food, shelter, and clothing for children on the streets, that he had unlimited access to about 300 boys and sexually abused children between 11- and 12-years-old, according to Ezili DantÃ², human rights activist lawyer and founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network.
“Haiti’s victories are bitter sweet,” she said during a phone interview with The Final Call. In her presentation during sentencing, Attorney DantÃ² urged the judge to levy the maximum sentence allowed as a message of deterrence to others who would sexually abuse children and betray public trust.
The network worked to send Judge Arterton letters on behalf of the Haitian children because Mr. Perlitz had many in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church supporting him throughout sentencing, Attorney DantÃ² said.
According to the activist, Mr. Perlitz was indicted in 2009 on a statute that he traveled outside the U.S. to engage in illicit sex with children. The statute was designed to stop sexual tourism, especially by Americans who targeted minors overseas, she said. Initially he faced nine counts, each carrying a 30-year sentence, but as part of his deal, he admitted to molesting eight boys and pled guilty to one count.
Judge Arterton sentenced him to 19-years-and-seven-months, and 10 years supervised probation, the attorney said.
“The newspapers are not getting it right. I myself was in court. … What the judge said was that Mr. Perlitz was a serial rapist who used good work to molest children,” despite his attorneys’ pleas that he should somehow get credit for doing good works, she said. The judge likened that claim to building a water well, poisoning the well, and seeking credit for building it, she continued.
According to Attorney DantÃ², Mr. Perlitz’s crimes surfaced when the children started writing on the graffiti boards of Cap-Haitien, saying he was a homosexual and molesting them at night. The exact number of victims is unknown because the children were ashamed of the stigma attached, she said, but one of the victims said in open court that he believed Mr. Perlitz had molested some 60 children.
She described the reaction of some of the victims who appeared in court during what she called “a riveting” seven-hour hearing.
“When those children went up, all six of them, one by one, to tell their stories, people in that courtroom … I know I cried … imagining an 11-year-old sleeping in a bed and then finding somebody’s organ in his back. I don’t want to get too graphic, but it was just, you could still see the child in him (the victim). You could see him saying he was hurt, and you could see him saying that he knew it was wrong but he didn’t want to go back to the streets because these boys didn’t have a home,” Atty. DantÃ² recalled. One of the children testified that Mr. Perlitz molested him from age 11 to 18, she said.
During the proceeding, Mr. Perlitz apologized to his victims, saying he had betrayed the public’s trust, but most of all, he damaged the children, yet his attorney was unnecessarily offensive, she said. In an email she sent to The Final Call, attorney DantÃ² noted that Mr. Perlitz’s Attorney called the children the “scourge of the earth,” “below dirt,” and said Haiti was so dark, pessimistic and negative, it contributed to Mr. Perlitz’s “downward spiral into abuse.”
Mr. Perlitz blamed his actions on a relationship he developed with a Jesuit priest at Fairfield University in Connecticut, his alma mater, news reports indicate. At press time, The Final Call was awaiting a response to phone and email requests for a statement from Mr. Perlitz’s attorney, William Dow, III.
Now, the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network is seeking trauma counseling, authentic education, shelter, and a non-dependent, self-reliant, skills-transfer way to help the young men move forward.
According to Atty. DantÃ², the network is dealing with 16 similar cases and she believes the issue of child molestation in Africa and Haiti is pandemic. Recently, 110 UN peacekeepers were deported out of Haiti for starting a brothel and funneling children in and out of their tanks for sex, she said, adding that much of these activities occur under the cultural narrative that White American and foreign charitable workers like Mr. Perlitz are superior to the Haitian people so whatever they do is more important than what Haitians are doing.
“He hid behind this religious persona and I thought it was critically important that I unveiled that religious persona because that persona is hiding a lot of mess in Haiti right now. I call it false benevolence, this idea that there are 16,000 NGO’s in Haiti, and Haitians are dying,” Attorney DantÃ² said.
“There are 16,000 charitable organizations and they’re all raking in the dollars to pay for their lifestyle on an island with maids, butlers and nice seafood to eat. They are living off in the hills and people are dying on the streets. They’ve collected almost $2 billion off our name and most of it is earning interest in charitable organization executives’ bank accounts,” Attorney DantÃ² said.