By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
MANCHESTER – The state has dropped dozens of sexual assault charges against two former counselors at the state’s youth detention facility saying they were impeding what has developed into a much broader investigation.
The charges can be re-filed later, according to Attorney General Gordon MacDonald. And a Youth Development Center Task Force consisting of 10 state troopers and an intelligence analyst has been assembled.
“The extraordinary level of resources now devoted to the YDC matter is without any recent precedent and reflects the seriousness with which the state takes these grave allegations,” MacDonald said in a news release.
YDC stands for the Youth Development Center, which has since been renamed the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center. It is for youths ages 13 to 17 who have been found delinquent and ordered to a secure institutional setting.
A Hillsborough County grand jury had returned 56 indictments against former youth counselor Jeffrey Buskey, 52, of Dorchester, Mass., charging him with aggravated felonious sexual assault, between Oct. 26, 1997, and Sept. 30, 1998. The grand jury also returned 26 indictments against Steven Murphy, 50, of Danvers, Mass., charging him with aggravated felonious sexual assault during the same period.
The charges against both men involve the same underage victim who was then in state custody and have all been dismissed.
MacDonald’s office took over the investigation on July 25, 2019 and was to initially focus on the timeframe between 1990 and 2000.
“Since that announcement, the investigation into YDC has addressed whether additional juveniles were subjected to physical or sexual violence at the YDC in this timeframe as well as whether there was conduct which constituted endangering the welfare of a child or obstructing governmental operations,” the release said.
The task force is headquartered at the Attorney General’s Office with lead investigators New Hampshire State Police Sergeant Justin D. Rowe and Attorney General Investigator James O. Kinney.
This investigation is being led by Senior Assistant Attorney General Lisa Wolford with support from Deputy Attorney General Jane Young, Associate Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin, Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward, and Attorney Timothy Sullivan.
The release explained that once someone is indicted, court rules and constitutional protections dictate that a criminal defendant is entitled to all the evidence obtained in the investigation and trial deadlines.
“Deadlines in the prosecutions of Mr. Buskey and Mr. Murphy are now negatively impacting the state’s ability to conduct the broader investigation unfettered,” the release stated.
Given the volume of information, the investigation is expected to continue for a number of months.
“Once the investigation has been completed, a determination will be made by this Office as to what, if any, criminal charges will be brought in connection with this matter,” the release said.
Anyone who was physically or sexually assaulted or abused at YDC is encouraged to contact their local crisis center, the release said.
To speak with an advocate, please call the statewide domestic violence hotline at 1-866-644-3574 or the statewide sexual assault hotline at 1-800-277-5570 or find the crisis center nearest you at https://www.nhcadsv.org/member-programs.html.
In addition, any person with information regarding criminal conduct at the YDC is urged to contact Sergeant Justin Rowe of the New Hampshire State Police at (603) 223-8849 or email@example.com or Investigator James Kinney at the Attorney General’s Office at (603) 271-1258 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org.