Jury Gets YDC Abuse Case as Both Sides Make Final Arguments

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Defense attorney Martha Gaythwaite, representing the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services at left. David Vicinanzo, representing David Meehan is pictured at right with Judge Andrew Schulman in the background as both sides made their final arguments May 2.


BRENTWOOD – As a child in state custody, his attorney says David Meehan was raped at least 200 times. He suffered almost as many beatings, and was forced into hellish solitary confinement for at least 100 days.

Now, the jury in Rockingham Superior Court will decide how much of what Meehan says happened to him in the Sununu Youth Services Center, then called YDC in Manchester, is the fault of the state.

Both sides gave their closing arguments Thursday in the civil trial, setting up the jury to begin deliberations Friday morning, with Meehan’s attorney David Vicinanzo hammering YDC’s pervasive corruption and code of silence that allowed the abuse to happen.

“They did it to our kids, and they did it to this kid,” Vicinanzo said.

The jury could end up handing Meehan a blockbuster damages award, with a total of $80 million to more than $100 million possible, if the state is deemed liable for its failure to stop abusers inside YDC.

Vicinanzo reminded jurors of the corruption and cover up shown in the weeks of testimony. Administrators refused to believe complaints against staff, abusive staffers were promoted, staff ripped up reports of abuse meant for the YDC ombudsman, people who spoke out said they were threatened and intimidated, people were hired without proper vetting or training, and until 2012 YDC never had any training for staff on spotting and stopping sexual abuse.

“The state said, ‘we don’t need to train people not to rape.’ That’s what abusers have said for decades,” Vicinanzo said. “How do you think kids are raped in churches and schools.”

Defense attorney Martha Gaythwaite, representing the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, told jurors there’s doubt about whether Meehan was actually raped and brutalized 30 years ago, there is no doubt that YDC was never corrupt.

“There was no widespread culture of abuse, this was not the den of inequity as it was portrayed,” Gaythwaite said.

Meehan’s story does not agree with the staff reports about his time in YDC, she said, and that discrepancy does not add up to a conspiracy to cover up abuse. Gaythwaite scoffed at the notion there was ever any coverup.

“Do you know any governmental agency that is efficient and that organized? Folks, we couldn’t even get our witnesses here on time for court,” Gaythwaite said.

But evidence brought out in the trial show many of the reports Gaythwaite relies on were written by the men accused of abusing Meehan, and who are currently criminally charged by the state. There’s also the fact Brad Asbury, a former YDC residential House Leader who oversaw the abusers, was found to have falsified evidence during a 1994 internal investigation.

Asbury would appeal his 1994 firing and got his job back after none of the internal investigation witnesses testified at the Personnel Appeals Board hearing. He later sued former Division for Children, Youth and Families chief Lorrie Lutz for defamation. The state settled that case for $37,000.

The jury now has to wade through weeks of testimony, and they must come to their decisions without emotion, Judge Andrew Schulman instructed.

“You’re not here to send a message, you’re here to apply the law to the facts and look at the case disproportional,” Schulman said.

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