Man accused of falsely claiming sex assault by YDC staff

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The entrance to the now-defunct Youth Substance Use Disorder Treatment Center, no longer funded by the state. It was originally known as the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center. File Photo/Carol Robidoux

CONCORD, NH – A Dover man, who alleged he was physically and sexually abused at the Youth Development Center in Manchester as a teen in the early 1990s, is now charged with four misdemeanors accusing him of filing false reports to law enforcement.

David A. Sweeney, 44, formerly of Belmont but being detained on a federal charge in the Strafford County jail, was arrested Thursday by New Hampshire State Police investigators as part of an ongoing investigation of sexual and physical abuse of court-ordered detained teens at the state-run facility.

 Sweeney was arraigned Friday in Merrimack County Superior Court where the court entered not guilty pleas to the charges.  Bail was set at $1,000 cash.

The charges stem from the ongoing state investigation into alleged abuses of teens from 1990 to 2000 at the YDC.

 According to court documents, on July 25, 2019, former Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced that the New Hampshire Department of Justice had initiated a criminal investigation into the physical and sexual abuse, as well as child endangerment at the state facility, now known as the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center.  Two days after MacDonald’s announcement, a Joint YDC Task Force was formed with the state Department of Safety assigning 12 state police investigators and staff to the investigation of individual victims’ allegations of criminal abuse.

Presently, there are more than 200 suspected victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by YDC and/or Youth Detention. The vast majority of the victims are being represented by Attorney Cyrus Rilee, who in January 2020 filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services  (DHHS) alleging abuse at YDC.  The class action has since been dismissed by the court but individual lawsuits may be pursued.

To date, investigators have talked with and recorded more than 200 victims, witnesses and perpetrators, according to court documents.  Investigators have obtained more than 600,000 pages of records from DHHS and the Division of Personnel, among other entities. Those include various logs documenting residents’ progress, activities, staff interactions, conduct, discipline, use of restraints, isolation; a communications log among staff; operations logbooks, tracking movement of residents on and off the YDC campus; incident logbook, documenting a resident’s bad behavior, and personnel records and work shift records.

When Sweeney was interviewed on July 23, 2020, he told investigators he was physically and sexually abused by YDC staff members.

However, records obtained by investigators indicate the staffer he named wasn’t employed at the facility at the time Sweeney was detained.  And, investigators learned, Sweeney was detained for only a few days at the Youth Detention Services Unit (YDSU) in Concord, a facility where teens were held while awaiting court action, and never transferred to YDC.  Sweeney claimed he was sent to the YDC in 1991 when he was 15 and was detained there for a year. 

In an interview with investigators, Sweeney admitted to having read the lawsuit filed by Rilee.  He said he joined the class action after being approached by an inmate who said Sweeney had been at the YDC with him.  Sweeny said he wasn’t at the YDC with the particular inmate but lied to him and agreed that he was.  The inmate told Sweeney he should talk to Rilee about joining the class action civil lawsuit.  Sweeney did talk with Rilee and joined the lawsuit.

In a second interview, investigators told Sweeney records they obtained showed he was never committed to YDC and that the man he named as having assaulted him wasn’t employed at the YDC at that time.  The allegations he made, they said, appeared impossible.  “Oh,” Sweeney said.

When investigators asked him if he wanted to cooperate with them and face misdemeanor charges or not and possibly be charged with a felony for perjury, Sweeney said, “we mine (cq) as well go for the felony, you know.  Cause you’re saying I wasn’t there, you know.  That’s why I said check the records,” according to the affidavit filed by Trooper First Class Amanda Johnson.

Confronted with the fact there were no records to support his claim that he was ever confined at YDC, Sweeney said, “Okay…if you say I wasn’t there” and “listen, I heard that you guys don’t have any fucking records, you don’t know who was ever there, you don’t…and it all got erased.  That’s what we were told.”

When investigators told him the extent of the records collected by the task force, he said “listen, if you guys got all those records and all that shit, I don’t know why the fuck you’re even talking to me, why you didn’t just charge me.”

Sweeney add that he didn’t “give a fuck” that he was “going to the feds for a long time.“ He said he didn’t’ even know why he talked with them without his attorney in the first place.  “We gotta be out of our fucking mind to be interviewing with you guys without our attorney present.”

Later, Sweeney called Johnson, apologized for his language, said he talked with his attorney and was “going to write it to him and have him send it to you.”  He said obviously he didn’t’ want to be charged with anything, said he would be speaking with Rilee and would have him reach out to the investigators.

To date, Johnson wrote, Rilee has not contacted the task force about the interview with Sweeney.

Sweeney is awaiting trial in federal court on a charge of distribution of methamphetamine.