Feds seek to hold Eagle man charged with Haiti sex abuse
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A former Connecticut man charged with sexually abusing nine boys at a school for poor children he founded in Haiti should not be released from prison because he poses a “clear and continuing danger,” federal prosecutors said.
A detention hearing was planned Thursday in New Haven to determine whether 39-year-old Douglas Perlitz, founder of the Project Pierre Toussaint school in Cap-Haitien, should continue to be held in prison.
Perlitz, who formerly lived in Fairfield County, Conn., was arrested at his home in Eagle, Colo., last month.
Authorities accused him of enticing children into sex acts by promising food, shelter, cash, cell phones, electronics, shoes and clothing. He also withheld benefits and threatened to expel the boys if they refused to have sexual relations, prosecutors said.
Perlitz’s attorney, William Dow III, said his client intends to plead not guilty and will argue he should be released from prison pending trial. Perlitz has surrendered his passport and would be monitored electronically if released from prison, Dow said.
“There’s no evidence, no claim that anyone in the United States has been endangered by my client,” Dow said Thursday. “He is a man not only with a clean record but an admirable record who enjoys the support of many many people in the face of these allegations.”
In court papers filed Wednesday, prosecutors call Perlitz a sexual predator who used a charitable institution to sexually molest vulnerable children for a decade. Electronic monitoring only tells authorities where a person is, not what they are doing, prosecutors said.
“There are simply no conditions of release that can assure the safety of children in the community and his appearance in court,” prosecutors wrote, citing the length of the alleged crimes, Perlitz’ extensive international travel and access he had to millions of dollars in donations.
Perlitz continued to visit and contact former students amid the investigation, prosecutors said.
“He clearly is very focused on either controlling these individuals or has little control over his sexual impulses towards minors,” authorities wrote. “In either case, he presents a clear and continuing danger.”
While authorities allege Perlitz sexually abused nine boys, they said “many more” told Haitian authorities they were sexually abused by Perlitz for a separate investigation. Perlitz told an investigator victims of molestation “need to move on and get over it,” prosecutors wrote.
Perlitz admitted “some boundaries were crossed” when he allowed children to stay overnight in his room but he denied any sexual contact with children, according to court papers.
The indictment lists seven counts of traveling outside of the United States with the intent to engage in sexual conduct with minors and three counts of engaging in sexual conduct in foreign places with minors.
The educational program initially served mostly street children as young as 6 years old, and later expanded to include a residential program for high school-aged children. Children were offered meals, sports, classroom instruction and access to running water for baths.
Volunteers and staff members were scared to come forward with the allegations, the indictment says, because Perlitz controlled the school’s operations and “utilized the fear of unemployment and the difficult economic situation in Haiti.”
Each count in the indictment carries up to 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.