/Father of former youth detention center resident testifies against him in New Hampshire trial

Father of former youth detention center resident testifies against him in New Hampshire trial


BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) — The father of a man who says he was regularly raped and beaten as a teen at New Hampshire’s youth detention center briefly testified Tuesday, saying his son had a reputation for dishonesty.

Daniel Meehan was the first witness called by the state, which is defending itself against allegations that its negligence allowed his son David to be abused at the Youth Development Center. Since David Meehan went to police in 2017, 11 former state workers have been arrested, and more than 1,100 former residents of the Manchester facility have filed lawsuits airing allegations of abuse that spanned six decades.

David Meehan’s lawsui t was the first to be filed and the first to go to trial earlier this month. During his three days on the witness stand, lawyers for the state questioned Meehan in detail about his childhood and suggested he was a violent boy who falsely accused his parents of physical abuse when they tried to impose rules. In contrast, the state’s lawyers spent little time on that Tuesday, questioning for Meehan’s father for little more than five minutes.

The elder Meehan described enrolling his son as a youth in Cub Scouts and other activities and seeking help for him when he complained about trouble sleeping. He also contradicted his son’s claim that his then-wife burned their son with cigarettes. Daniel Meehan said that as a firefighter whose relatives had emphysema, he did not smoke and did not allow cigarettes in the home.

“Based on all your experiences before he went to YDC and since he went to YDC, does he have a reputation for untruthfulness?” asked Assistant Attorney General Brandon Chase. “Yes,” Meehan answered.

Under questioning from his son’s attorney, Daniel Meehan acknowledged that some of that dishonesty occurred when his son was struggling with a drug addiction. David Meehan testified earlier that he had used heroin to combat post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the alleged abuse.

Attorney David Vicinanzo also questioned Daniel Meehan about his career as a firefighter, suggesting it kept him away from home so much he didn’t know much about his children or his ex-wife, who spent years being unfaithful to him before he found out. Neither side asked him about David Meehan’s time at the detention center, where according to the lawsuit, he endured near-daily beatings, rapes and long stints in solitary confinement.

Over three weeks, jurors heard Meehan and more than a dozen witnesses called by his attorneys. They included 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 several psychological experts. Aside from Meehan’s father, the first witnesses for the defense included a woman who spent nearly 40 years at YDC as a youth counselor, teacher and principal and a child psychologist who criticized the previous experts.

Psychologist Eric Mart said Meehan’s experts assumed he was telling the truth without performing any tests to assess whether he was exaggerating. Mart, who had evaluated Meehan when he was 13, said it was fair to say he had significant mental health issues before he was sent to the youth center. He also said he never saw anything amiss when he met with teens at the facility in the 1990s.

Though one former teacher testified Monday that she saw suspicious bruises on Meehan and half a dozen other teens in the 1990s, former principal Marie Sullivan said she never saw signs of abuse, nor did any students tell her they were being abused.

Sullivan, who retired in 2021, was asked whether staff and teachers cared about the teens.

“I believe they did because it’s a very hard job, and you don’t stay unless you like what you do,” she said.



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