NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CBS/WSFB/AP) Douglas Perlitz, a Colorado man who founded a school for street children in Haiti, was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for sexually abusing students for more than a decade at his school.
Judge Janet Bond Arterton called Perlitz a serial rapist and molester as she imposed the sentence in New Haven federal court on Tuesday. She said she believed he would commit the same crimes again if he were in a similar position.
The 40-year-old apologized to his victims while speaking in Creole before the sentence was handed down. He said he knew his crimes were horrible but pleaded for leniency nevertheless, asking the judge to consider the good work he did in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
"I began losing my head. ... I was using you," Perlitz said while facing the six young men who testified earlier. "...Perhaps you thought, 'How could this man, Douglas, who's protecting me, be touching me like this?'
More than 100 people filled the courtroom including the victims, two Haitian police officers and Perlitz's family and supporters.
Perlitz admitted in August that he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with eight children who attended the Project Pierre Toussaint School for homeless children in Cap-Haitien. Prosecutors said Perlitz gave the children money, food, clothing and electronics and threatened to take everything away and expel them from the program if they told anyone.
In court documents, Perlitz said one factor in the crimes was his "dark and abusive relationship" with a priest authorities have not named - whom he met while attending Fairfield University.
The six young men were flown to Connecticut and detailed the abuse they suffered.
"He always told me, `Don't tell anybody about it. If you tell anybody about it, I will put you out on the street,"' one victim said through a Creole interpreter. He said Perlitz first abused him in 1998 and once sodomized him after plying him with rum.
Another victim said Perlitz started abusing him on his 14th birthday in 2004. He said he struggled with feelings of shame and thought about suicide, especially when he read the Bible.
Perlitz was arrested last year and pleaded guilty to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, a crime that carries up to 30 years in prison.
He said he would like to continue helping people.
"They say a convicted sex offender has no future, but I would like to try to prove people wrong," he said.
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