Hidden Search Warrant Exposes State Corruption, According to YDC Victims 

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Courtesy photo

David Meehan is pictured when he was a teenager at YDC in Manchester.

By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org

MANCHESTER – Lawyers for more than 1,000 Sununu Youth Services Center victims say the state is hiding evidence of its own corruption in a search warrant affidavit that’s been sealed for more than four years.

“It’s the worst child abuse scandal in the history of New Hampshire, and the State did it. No wonder they want to cover it up,” Nixon Peabody’s David Vicinanzo, one of the lead attorneys in the civil lawsuits, told InDepthNH.org.

SYSC was known as the Youth Development Center or YDC in Manchester where juveniles are incarcerated.

This week, Vicinanzo and Bedford attorney Cyrus Rilee filed a motion in Concord District Court to unseal the search warrant affidavit, making it a public document. Their motion is opposed by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella’s office. 

The affidavit in question, filed in January of 2020 by one of the New Hampshire State Troopers investigating the YDC abuse as part of New Hampshire Attorney General’s Task Force, shows the extent of corruption within YDC and the state, according to Rilee and Vicinanzo’s motion. Keeping the affidavit sealed flies in the face of the law and New Hampshire’s constitution, they argue. 

“In this case, the Search Warrant Affidavit exposes in great detail the corruption of the State as perpetrated by more than one State government agency and the criminality of a large number of State employees. As such, the public’s right to know under Part I, Article 8 is at its zenith,” Rilee and Vicinanzo write.

The first YDC trial for the lawsuit brought by alleged victim David Meehan is set to start in April. Rilee and Vicinanzo say the state is impaired by a conflict of interest when it comes to YDC abuse and it is still trying to hide evidence found by the Task Force.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office confirmed Monday it plans to oppose unsealing the affidavit on the same grounds it opposed other such motions. According to a motion filed in a prior unsealing motion, the state argued that affidavits from the criminal investigation need to stay sealed, largely, in order to protect the ongoing investigation.

The YDC Task Force resulted in 11 indictments in 2021, but none since despite mounting evidence of hundreds more alleged abusers who remain free from legal consequence.

According to Vicinanzo and Rilee, the fact the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting alleged YDC abusers through the Task Force created by former Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, while at the same time defending the state in the civil lawsuits is at the heart of the problem.

“Continued secrecy gives the Attorney General a litigation advantage in the Meehan civil case by depriving him of powerful evidence,” Vicinanzo told InDepthNH.org. “And it prevents public accountability of the State, including the Attorney General’s Office, for allowing grotesque and pervasive child abuse in State custody to go on for years.”

Schulman noted the obvious conflict during a hearing in the civil litigation last year while talking to a lawyer for the Attorney General’s Office.

“But you seem to be saying it’s fine if the person hasn’t been convicted yet, for the State to go to court, seek bail, put somebody on trial, stand up, tell the jury this guy committed aggravated felonious sexual assault on that day, and for the State of New Hampshire can come into a different courtroom and say, oh, no, that never happened. The person we called the victim in the other courtroom is a liar. It just — that seems incongruous to me,” Schulman said, according to the transcript. 

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