YDC rape and abuse criminal trials face delays after millions of documents found

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Sununu Youth Services Center. File Photo

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CONCORD, NH  – The state says it has found potentially millions of documents related to the rape and abuse of children who were incarcerated at the Sununu Youth Services Center, possibly adding months of delay to the criminal trials.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office recently disclosed to the courts it has found several computer hard drives containing millions of documents, some of which could be relevant to the criminal cases against several former state employees.

The state told the court that it would be months before the recently discovered documents could be reviewed. The first criminal trial is scheduled to start in January, but according to the state, the review of the newly discovered documents won’t be complete until June of 2023.

In an order issued this month by Judge Will Delker, both sides will need to come up with alternatives to the current review process to reduce the amount of delay.

“It has become clear to this Court that it must take an active role in the management of the discovery in these cases in order to bring these cases to trial in a timely manner,” Delker wrote.

Hundreds of alleged victims have come forward to accuse YDC staff of horrific abuse, including rape and assaults. The state task force has so far charged former YDC employees Jeffrey Buskey, Frank Davis, Gordon Thomas Searles, Stephen Murphy, Bradley Asbury, James Woodlock, Lucien Poulette, Trevor Middleton, Jonathan Tracy Brand, and Stanley Watson for their alleged abuse of the children held at the state-run facility.

The criminal trials were expected to run through 2024, but that schedule is now in doubt given the millions more documents to be reviewed. The state has already turned over 2.5 million documents connected to the case to defuse lawyers as part of the discovery process.

At least one of those trials is already in jeopardy after attorneys for Davis filed for a competency hearing based on disclosures made in the state’s attempt to stall the concurrent civil lawsuits. Davis is considered one of the worst offenders in the YDC case, allegedly raping dozens of children over two decades.

Last month, lawyers for the state tried to stop Davis from giving a deposition in the civil trial by questioning his competency.

Attorney David Vicinanzo’s motion informing the court about the delay states that Davis’ lead counsel, Aviva Jeruchim, got the idea to file a motion for a competency hearing based on the state’s civil motion to quash the deposition. Vicinanzo, one of the lead attorneys for the 800 plaintiffs in the civil lawsuits, told the Merrimack Superior Court that competency was not an issue until the state brought it up in the civil case.

“(Davis’s criminal attorney) Aviva Jeruchim called the undersigned. Encouraged by the State’s position in the civil case casting doubt on Davis’ competency to testify, Ms. Jeruchim not surprisingly indicated that she would file a motion alleging his incompetence in the criminal case,” Vicinanzo wrote in a motion to the court. “If, as the State had suggested, Davis is found to be ‘incompetent,’ the State will be barred from prosecuting him in the criminal case and he will evade justice.”

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office claimed it only brought up the issue of Davis’ competency after they were informed of the issue by Vicinanzo’s team, something Vicinanzo vehemently denies.

Davis is 80, and he has shown no signs of dementia or any other impairment that would keep him from giving a deposition, according to Vicinanzo.

Former Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court John Broderick was appointed this month to oversee the settlement process proposed by the state. New Hampshire’s legislature approved a $100 million settlement package for YDC victims, though Vicinanzo has criticized the deal.

The settlement offer includes monetary caps on what victims may receive, a stipulation that victims give up their right to file a lawsuit before they know what the state will offer, and the requirement for the victims to provide documentation of their abuse while exempting the state from having to provide any documentation.

“Because of these and other flaws, the settlement process remains hostile to the victims and designed to favor the State and protect it from true accountability. None of this is surprising because the State continues to make clear that its claim to ‘help’ victims is false political posturing designed to sweep this scandal (and all the human tragedy it caused) under the rug,” Vicinanzo and attorney Rus Rilee wrote to Attorney General John Formella when Broderick’s appointment was announced.

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About this Author

Damien Fisher

Damien Fisher is a freelance reporter and publisher of NHReporter.com