AG’s drops dozens of charges as scope of 1990s YDC sex assault investigation expands

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NH Youth Development Center in Manchester, NH. File Photo

CONCORD, NH — State officials have dropped dozens of aggravated felonious sexual assault charges (AFSA) against two former counselors at the Youth Development Center amid an ever-expanding investigation, one expected to take months to complete.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and New Hampshire Department of Safety Commissioner Robert L. Quinn, in announcing the dismissal of the charges on Wednesday, said that does not preclude them from bringing charges against the two men at a later time.

In a news release, the attorney general explained that once a Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District grand jury indicted Jeffrey Buskey, 52, of Dorcester, Mass., on 56 AFSA counts and indicted Stephen Murphy, 50, of Danvers, Mass. on 26 AFSA charges, court rules and constitutional protections dictated certain discovery and trial deadlines.  Discovery refers to all the evidence obtained in the course of an investigation.

The two men were accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy at the facility more than 20 years ago where they were youth counselors there.

“In this case, the broader investigation is ongoing,” state officials said in a news release.  “Deadlines in the prosecutions of Mr. Buskey and Mr. Murphy are now negatively impacting the state’s ability to conduct the broader investigation unfettered.”

Prosecutors dropped the charges “in order to allow the investigation to proceed to completion and to ensure that any and all charges brought in connection with this matter appropriately reflect all the evidence and all the potential survivors and perpetrators,” according to the news release.

On July 25, 2015, the Attorney General’s Office took over the prosecution of the cases because of the scope and complexity of the issues and because the cases involved state employees at the YDC.  Prior to that, the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office had obtained the indictments against Buskey and Murphy.

The alleged assaults took place between Oct. 26, 1997, and Sept. 30, 1998, while the men were youth counselors and while the alleged victim was a minor in the custody of the YDC.

The state opened a “comprehensive, multi-faceted investigation” of the YDC and its employees.  It was expanded in August 2019 to determine whether other juveniles were subjected to physical or sexual violence at the facility or whether there was conduct endangering those held in custody.

Investigators also are looking into whether anyone obstructed governmental operations.  Under NH RSA 642, it is a misdemeanor for anyone to use “intimidation, actual or threatened force or violence, simulated legal process, or engages in any other unlawful conduct with a purpose to hinder or interfere with a public servant performing or purporting to perform an official function or to retaliate for the performance or purported performance of such a function.”

The “mounting complexity and growing reach of the ongoing investigation” resulted in MacDonald asking Quinn for additional investigators.  As a result, 10 New Hampshire State Police troopers and an intelligence analyst joined the investigation which includes a team of investigators, prosecutors and victim-witness advocates.  They constitute the Joint YDC Task Force headquartered at the Attorney General’s Office.

The lead investigators are State Police Sgt. Justin D. Rowe and Attorney General Investigator James O. Kinney. The 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.

In addition to the “unprecedented allocation of investigatory resources,” the Department of Justice’s Office of Victim Witness Assistance has designated a single point of contact, Sunny Mulligan Shea, to assist survivors with their unique needs.

“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.

Anyone who was physically or sexually assaulted or abused at the YDC is encouraged to contact their local crisis center. Crisis center advocates are available across New Hampshire to provide free and confidential support to anyone impacted by sexual violence. Crisis center services are also available to anyone who has experienced or witnessed abuse, or who is looking to find ways to support someone who has.

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.

Anyone with information regarding criminal conduct at the YDC is urged to contact Sgt. Rowe at (603) 223-8849 or justin.rowe@dos.nh.gov or Investigator  Kinney at (603) 271-1258 or email: james.kinney@doj.nh.gov.