YDC Victim Used as ‘Child Sex Slave, Punching Bag’ Under Health and Human Services’ Care, Lawyer Tells Jurors

By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org

BRENTWOOD – David Meehan’s lawyer told jurors how his already troubled life became part of an “inhuman atrocity” when sent at age 14 to the state’s youth detention center in Manchester where he was raped hundreds of times, beaten and locked in solitary confinement for months on end from 1995 to 1999.

David Vicinanzo, former First Assistant US Attorney who is now with the Nixon Peabody law firm, came close to tears several times Tuesday during his emotional opening statement in Meehan’s civil trial against the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The department oversaw what was then called YDC, now infamous for the more than a thousand lawsuits alleging emotional, physical and sexual abuse of the children who were incarcerated there.

The veteran lawyer, who along with attorney Rus Rilee represents 1,200 alleged victims, told jurors he was nervous despite his many years of experience. This is the first of the civil lawsuits against the state to go to trial in Rockingham Superior Court.

“I worry that some inadequacy on my part, a mistake, omission – something will hurt my client, will impede David Meehan, not just my client who is also now my friend, from getting the justice that he has so long been denied,” Vicinanzo said.

The evidence will show the devastation that was inflicted on a young boy under the “care of the state of New Hampshire.

“And the second thing is the evidence of the depravity, the wanton neglect of the state government that permitted and covered up the abuse of David Meehan and others because it didn’t care enough,” Vicinanzo said.

He talked about Meehan’s troubled childhood born to teenage parents, an abusive, addicted mother and how he began to act out as a teenager.

“He ran away at 13,” Vicinanzo said, and ultimately landed at YDC at age 14, a short skinny boy who was angry and depressed.

At first, YDC wasn’t so bad, but then Meehan was transferred from Spaulding Cottage to King Cottage “where he was raped only once,” Vicinanzo said.

Meehan got gonorrhea from the staffer who raped him and the staff nurse who treated him didn’t ask how he got it.

It was after Meehan was transferred to East Cottage that life became nearly unbearable, Vicinanzo said, warning the jury Meehan’s testimony will be difficult to hear.

East Cottage was run by Brad Asbury, one of 11 former staffers who was charged in 2021 with abuse crimes related to working at YDC in the 1990s.

The Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the 11 men criminally and another section of the Attorney General’s Office is defending the state Department of Health and Human Services in the civil lawsuits.

Asbury had been fired from the department after an investigation but was later rehired.

“He ran a tight ship, picked his own crew of guards to work under him at East Cottage,” Vicinanzo said.

That’s where Meehan was raped daily, he said.

“At first, David fought back,” Vicinanzo said, but after a while he learned not to fight back because it was too painful to fight, being beaten and raped by someone much older, bigger and stronger.

Before long, there were other staffers raping Meehan, usually in his cell. Sometimes the rapes were anal, other times oral, Vicinanzo said.

One time, the staffer pointed a gun at Meehan’s head, Vicinanzo said.

Besides the rapes, Meehan was beaten severely dozens of times, locked in his cell in solitary confinement for months at a time and raped just about every day.

“Over a year’s period David was raped over 300 times,” Vicinanzo said.

“Eventually David was reduced to the status of a child sex slave and a punching bag at YDC under the ‘care’ of the New Hampshire Health and Human Services,” Vicinanzo said.

DHHS’s Defense

Assistant Attorney General Brandon Chase represents the state Department of Health and Human Services in the civil lawsuit and made the state’s opening statement Tuesday.

Chase told jurors they must decide the true facts of the case, whether the lawsuit was legally filed too late, and what if any compensation is due Meehan.

“That was difficult to hear what Mr. Meehan claims and says happened to him in the mid-1990s. It’s difficult for anyone to hear this.

“There’s absolutely no question physical abuse, sexual abuse, any abuse is simply wrong. If anyone committed those crimes, those individual perpetrators should be punished,” Chase said.

“The people Mr. Meehan says abused him are not here. We do not represent them,” he said.

“You have to decide whether the Department of Health and Human Services is actually liable or were the terrible acts that you heard here the responsibility or result of a small group of rogue employees who acted in secret for their own purpose,” Chase said. “Did the department know?”
And if the department is liable, what is the fair compensation, he asked.

He said the state’s job is to help jurors find the truth.

“This would be an easy case if the scales of justice were tilted by outrage and emotion, but they aren’t,” Chase said. “Because all cases must be decided on true facts, on evidence.”

Chase reminded the jury that the events occurred 25 years ago and memories fade, witnesses move away and can’t be found, records get lost.

“You’re the decision-makers. We’re just here to help you seek the truth,” Chase said.

State’s Responsibility

How could this inhuman atrocity happen, Vicinanzo asked the jury.

“The evidence is clear the state itself caused it,” Vicinanzo said.

He provided examples in which several staffers tried to report what was going on but were threatened themselves and told to “shut the expletive up.”

Vicinanzo said top the administration was aware of the abuse. “The fish rots from the head,” Vicinanzo said.

It came from the top of YDC, the top of DHHS, a place filled with nepotism “obsessed with protecting staff from any accountability,” he said.’

The lawsuit was filed in time because Meehan only became aware of the state’s responsibility in 2017 after he filed a criminal complaint, he said.

Vicinanzo talked about Meehan’s life after YDC, calling him “a very damaged young man” who turned to hard drugs to survive for a number of years to just get through the day.

Meehan quit the drugs cold turkey in 2012, worked construction, married and had three great kids, Vicinanzo said.

But he suffers to this day.

“He is unable to feel happiness. He has no joy in life. Suffering is constant,” Vicinanzo said.