NATIONAL NEWS

Jurors hear closing arguments in landmark case alleging abuse at New Hampshire youth center

May 2, 2024, 12:57 PM

BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) — Jurors heard closing arguments Thursday in a landmark case seeking to hold the state of New Hampshire accountable for abuse at its youth detention center.

The plaintiff, David Meehan, went to police in 2017 and sued the state three years later alleging he was brutally beaten, raped and held in solitary confinement at the Youth Development Center in the 1990s. Since then, 11 former state workers have been arrested and more than 1,100 other former residents have filed lawsuits alleging physical, sexual and emotional abuse spanning six decades.

Meehan’s lawyer David Vicinanzo told jurors that an award upwards of $200 million would be reasonable — $1 million for each alleged sexual assault. He argued the state’s clear negligence encouraged a culture of abuse marked by pervasive brutality, corruption and a code of silence.

“They still don’t get it,” Vicinanzo said. “They don’t understand the power they had, they don’t understand how they abused their power and they don’t care.

But the state’s lawyer said Meehan’s case relied on “conjecture and speculation with a lot of inuendo mixed in,” and that zero liability should be assigned to the state.

“There was no widespread culture of abuse,” attorney Martha Gaythwaite said. “This was not the den of iniquity that has been portrayed.”

Gaythwaite said there was no evidence that the facility’s superintendent or anyone in higher-level state positions knew anything about the alleged abuse.

“Conspiracy theories are not a substitute for actual evidence,” she said.

Meehan, whose lawsuit was the first to be filed and first to go to trial, spent three days on the witness stand describing his three years at the Manchester facility and its aftermath. He told jurors that his first sexual experience was being violently raped by a staffer at age 15, and that another staffer he initially viewed as a caring father-figure became a daily tormenter who once held a gun to his head during a sexual assault.

“I’m forced to try to hold myself together somehow and show as a man everything these people did to this little boy,” he said. “I’m constantly paying for what they did.”

Meehan’s attorneys called more than a dozen witnesses, including former staffers who said they faced resistance and even threats when they raised or investigated concerns, a former resident who described being gang-raped in a stairwell, and a teacher who said she spotted suspicious bruises on Meehan and half a dozen other boys during his time there.

The state called five witnesses, including Meehan’s father, who answered “yes” when asked whether his son had “a reputation for untruthfulness.” Among the other witnesses was a longtime youth center principal who saw no signs of abuse over four decades, and a psychiatrist who diagnosed Meehan with bipolar disorder, not the post-traumatic stress disorder his side claims.

In cross-examining Meehan, the state’s attorneys portrayed him as a violent child who continued causing trouble at the youth center and a delusional adult who is now exaggerating or lying to get money. In her closing statement, Gaythwaite apologized if she suggested Meehan deserved to be abused.

“If I said or did anything to make that impression or to suggest I do not feel sorry for Mr. Meehan, I regret that,” she said. “It was my job to ask difficult questions about hard topics so you have a full picture of all of the evidence.”

Her approach, however, highlighted an unusual dynamic in which the attorney general’s office is both defending the state against the civil lawsuits and prosecuting suspected perpetrators in the criminal cases. Though the state tried to undermine Meehan’s credibility in the current case, it will be relying on his testimony when the criminal cases go to trial.

National News

Associated Press

Three little piggies at a yoga class = maximum happiness

SPENCER, Mass. (AP) — Three little piggies went to a yoga class. Their human companions had a blast. Wilbur, Charlotte and Bluey fit right into a growing trend of yoga with animals, adding some fun to the usual physical and mental wellness exercises at a class in central Massachusetts. Darting and strolling among the yoginis […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

You didn’t think summer travel would be easy, did you? Highways and airports are likely to be jammed the next few days as Americans head out for Memorial Day weekend getaways and then return home. AAA predicts this will be the busiest start-of-summer weekend in nearly 20 years, with 43.8 million people expected to travel […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

5 dead and nearly 3 dozen hurt in tornadoes that tore through Iowa, officials say

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — A deadly tornado that wreaked havoc in the small city of Greenfield, Iowa, left four people dead and nearly three dozen injured, officials said, while a fifth person was killed elsewhere. The twister that tore through the city on Tuesday was rated at least an EF-3 by the National Weather Service […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Thousands of journalists have fled homelands due to repression, threats and conflict, UN expert says

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Thousands of journalists have fled their home countries in recent years to escape political repression, save their lives and escape conflict – but in exile they are often vulnerable to physical, digital and legal threats, a U.N. investigator said Wednesday. Irene Khan said in a report to the U.N. General Assembly […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk. Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Missouri prosecutors to seek death penalty in killing of court employee and police officer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri prosecutors said Wednesday that they intend to seek the death penalty against a Kansas City-area man who is charged with murder in the killings of a court employee who tried to serve an eviction notice on him and a police officer who responded. Larry Acree, 70, of Independence, is […]

9 hours ago

Jurors hear closing arguments in landmark case alleging abuse at New Hampshire youth center