New Hampshire jury finds state liable for abuse at youth detention center and awards victim $38M

May 3, 2024, 10:58 AM

BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire jury awarded $38 million to the man who blew the lid off abuse allegations at the state’s youth detention center Friday, finding the state’s negligence allowed him to be beaten, raped and held in solitary confinement as a teen in the 1990s.

David Meehan, went to police in 2017 and sued the state three years later. Since then, 11 former state workers have been arrested and more than 1,100 other former residents of the Youth Development Center in Manchester have filed lawsuits alleging physical, sexual and emotional abuse spanning six decades.

Meehan’s case was the first to go to trial, and the outcome could affect the criminal cases, the remaining lawsuits, and a separate settlement fund the state created as an alternative to litigation.

Over the course of the four-week trial, the state argued it was not liable for the conduct of “rogue” employees and that Meehan waited too long to sue. The defense also tried to undermine his credibility and said his case relied on “conjecture and speculation with a lot of inuendo mixed in.”

“Conspiracy theories are not a substitute for actual evidence,” attorney Martha Gaythwaite said in her closing statement Thursday.

Meehan’s attorneys accused the state of encouraging a culture of abuse marked by pervasive brutality, corruption and a code of silence.

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

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New Hampshire jury finds state liable for abuse at youth detention center and awards victim $38M