Douglas Perlitz ’92 appeared in court for the first time on Thursday to be arraigned on 10 counts involving sexually abusing children in Haiti.
In front of a packed courtroom at the Richard C. Lee Federal Courthouse in New Haven, Perlitz, dressed in prison khakis, stood with his hands clasped behind his back and leaned forward to plead not guilty to seven charges of traveling overseas to engage in sexual conduct with minors and three charges of engaging in illegal sexual conduct with minors. Each charge carries a maximum 30-year prison term and a $250,000 fine.
But first, arguments were heard on a motion filed by the government to detain Perlitz until his trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Krishna Patel argued that Perlitz was a flight risk, a danger to the community, and needed to be detained until his trial. William F. Dow III, Perlitz’s attorney, responded by saying that Perlitz has no criminal record, except for a DUI this year in Colorado.
Dow also put together a package to try to secure Perlitz’s release. Perlitz’s mother offered to put up two houses, his brother another one and his uncle a fourth house for a total worth of 1.9-2.3 million dollars. Dow also argued that Perlitz’s community was 2,000 miles away in Haiti, so therefore Perlitz was no danger to the Fairfield community. Dow also said that the government has no tangible evidence and that this is a “credibility case.”
He painted a picture of Project Pierre Tousaint turning into a “Hatfield-McCoy situation” in which the group split over the allegations against Perlitz. He also noted that the Haitian National Police interrogated the boys, and according to a U.S. government study, the HNP is underfunded, under-trained and unreliable.
Dow also proposed that Perlitz be released to a third party custodian. Anthony and Mary Sirianni of Fairfield have offered to house Perlitz and monitor him if he should be released before his trial. He also proposed that Thomas Tisdale ’78, a Southport lawyer and former board member of the Haiti Fund, could hire Perlitz on a limited basis until his trial. He finally argued that housing Perlitz in Rhode Island until his trial would interfere with his 6th Amendment right to counsel because contact with his attorneys would be limited at such a far distance.
An officer for the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System also recommended Perlitz be released. He thought the financial package was sufficient and that while “it isn’t a perfect system, but it’s the most reliable and the risk can be minimized.”
Patel had numerous problems with this proposal for Perlitz’s release. She wanted to make sure that Perlitz has no contact with potential witnesses or anyone involved in the trial, including all board members, some of whom “engaged in conduct of a very disturbing nature,” according to Patel.
At the hearing, Patel also questioned Mary Sirianni, the woman who offered to house Perlitz should he be released. Sirianni is a registered nurse while her husband, Anthony, is a wheelchair-bound retired lawyer with multiple sclerosis. Sirianni said she is receiving no compensation for offering to house Perlitz and that she and her husband were looking for a way to give back to the community. She admitted that she knew the Tisdales, who support Perlitz’s innocence, and that she met Perlitz once for 10 minutes at a birthday party. She also said that she had spoken to Fr. Paul Carrier, S.J. multiple times.
After an hour and twenty minutes of debate, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis continued the hearing to Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. She also indicated that it is likely Perlitz will be released on bail, but with substantially more money involved, most likely between $4-5 million. She also wants more third-party custodians. The government will question all third-party individuals as well to ensure they have no connection to the Haiti Fund.
Jury selection for the trial is scheduled for Dec. 2.
Jesuits break silence
Since a Bridgeport jury returned an indictment for Doug Perlitz ’92 on Sept. 15, questions have arisen about the role of Carrier, the former director of campus ministry. The indictment refers to “a religious leader, who had met and befriended Perlitz while Perlitz attended college in Connecticut and who frequently communicated with and visited Perlitz in Haiti.” This religious leader chose the board members of the Haiti Fund, which operated as the fund-raising arm of the charity and raised large sums of money.
“The Society has been in direct contact with the U.S. Attorney’s office and has informed that office of Father Carrier’s whereabouts,” the Society of Jesus said in an e-mail sent to the Connecticut Post by Kelly Lynch, a spokesman for the Jesuits. “The Society is cooperating fully with law enforcement in the investigation.”
Lynch also said that Carrier “currently has no assignment and is not performing any public ministry.”
When questioning Siranni, Patel asked if she knew Carrier, and during an objection, Dow said that “the government is extremely interested in him.” The U.S. Attorneys office would only say that the investigation is ongoing and they could not comment.