By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
The state does not want a former guard at the Sununu Youth Services Center, also called YDC in Manchester, being prosecuted for allegedly raping children incarcerated there to testify in the civil lawsuit representing victims, claiming he is too frail to talk.
Frank Davis, 80, of Hopkinton, was arrested last year along with seven other former workers at the Youth Development Center, and all charged with either sexual assault or being accomplices to the abuse of 11 teens from 1994 to 2005.
Davis was indicted in July 2021 on one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault; five counts of sexual assault (misdemeanors) allegedly involving two former residents of the YDC between 1996 and 1997, according to a press release then from the Attorney General’s Office.
A total of 11 former state workers have been charged with abuse crimes at YDC.
Davis has agreed to give a deposition in the civil lawsuit brought by more than 800 abuse victims, but the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is trying to stop him from talking. According to a motion to quash the deposition, Davis is frail and possibly incompetent.
“While the state Defendants would be willing to work with plaintiffs’ counsel regarding an early deposition of Mr. Davis under suitable circumstances (if competent), that is not the case at present,” the motion to quash states.
The state argues that Davis should not give testimony in the civil case, which is likely to cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, because of his condition and the fact he will likely plead the Fifth Amendment during the deposition.
“Plaintiffs’ counsel cannot possibly hope to obtain probative evidence at this deposition. They concede Mr. Davis is in poor physical and mental health, and almost certain to invoke the Fifth Amendment (assuming he is competent),” the motion states.
Attorneys for the victims say this is just another stalling tactic being deployed by the state to hold off the lawsuits.
“The state’s strategy of delay is on full display in its motion to quash, in which it leaps to the defense of Frank Davis, a long-time guard at the Sununu Center/YDC who is among the most prolific child abusers in state history,” said attorneys David Vicinanzo and Rus Rilee, who are representing the victims.
Rilee and Vicinanzo’s response to the motion to quash points out that the state has not raised the issue of Davis’ competence in the criminal case against the former state employee.
“As of this morning, the docket in that case reflects that the state has filed no motion raising concerns about Mr. Davis’ ‘competence’ or ‘ability to testify’ in that case, as it is constitutionally required to do if it really believes Mr. Davis is incompetent,” Rilee and Vicinanzo state.
As for the argument that Davis might not give any information by invoking his Fifth Amendment rights, the attorneys say that is irrelevant. It’s just as likely Davis might implicate his superiors if he were to sit for the deposition, they argue.
“That is possible, but irrelevant. Mr. Davis may also want to clear his conscience, either by admitting the literal thousands of sexual assaults, violent beatings, and sadistic acts of torture he inflicted on vulnerable children over his decades of employment ‘caring’ for them as an employee of the state. He may want to say that his colleagues and supervisors were well-aware of his depraved conduct and either looked the other way to preserve the ‘code of silence,’ approved of the conduct, or (as was often the case) joined in to make it a group assault,” they argue.
The possibility that more people could be implicated in the abuse is the real worry for the state, Rilee and Vicinanzo claim.
“While the questioning will focus on Mr. Davis’ rape and other abuse of Mr. Meehan, it will necessarily explore other bad acts by Mr. Davis and contextual evidence relevant to the Meehan case, as well as the state Defendants’ knowledge of those acts, practices, training (or its absence), supervisory knowledge, and discipline (or its absence),” they wrote.
This week, Attorney General John Formella got approval from lawmakers for a revised $100 million settlement proposal, which changes the methodology to determine a victim’s compensation to shorten the timeline of abuse needed to reach the statutory cap and to increase the rewards for repeated incidents of abuse.
Like the last proposal, the newly revised proposal has been sharply criticized by attorneys for the victims, who say it does not provide adequate compensation, lacks a comprehensive notification process, and is overly complicated and difficult for victims to navigate without an attorney. The proposal is also likely to end up with victims getting far less than the statutory cap of $1.5 million.
The alleged abuse committed by state staff include instances horrific sexual abuse, physical violence, torture, excessive use of force, excessive use of solitary confinement and physical restraints, mental abuse, and even children being forced into coprophagia by staff.