Workers at New Hampshire’s youth detention center abused children like it was a team sport, according to a 42-year-old man who on Thursday filed the latest of what is expected to be many individual lawsuits after a judge denied a class action earlier this year.
The man, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe #1, is suing the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester and four of 11 former staffers who were arrested in April — Stephen Murphy, James Woodlock, Jeffrey Buskey and Frank Davis. It is the third lawsuit against the center, and the second since a judge dismissed the class action suit.
Murphy and Woodlock have been criminally charged with being accomplices to the rape of John Doe in 1996.
In an email, Murphy’s attorney, Bruce Kenna, described the lawsuit as a part of a money-making scheme that has attracted former detainees “no matter how frivolous their claims, no matter their criminal background, no matter how ridiculous their assertations that they were victims of horrendous abuse but never realized they should tell someone.”
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Buskey is charged with assaulting four other teenagers but not Doe. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services. Attorney Justin Shepherd, who represents Frank Davis in a criminal case accusing him of one count of rape involving a different teenager, said his client maintains his innocence.
More than 350 men and women have come forward with allegations involving 150 staffers from 1963 to 2018 at what was then called the Youth Development Center, which has been under criminal investigation since 2019 and is slated to close in 2023.
John Doe said he was held there from 1994 to 1997 and later spent nearly his entire adult life behind bars for violent burglaries and robberies before being released in January.
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He said youth center staffers forced him to fight other teens for food and routinely sent him and others to solitary confinement in a room with no toilet. He then was beaten for urinating on the floor, he said. Though he didn’t come from a violent home, he said he quickly developed a “killer instinct.”
“Every confrontation I’ve had from when I got there from (age) 15 on out, was met with violence because I was scared. I don’t want to be abused. I don’t want to get hit first. I don’t want to get attacked first. And so I overly react to stuff. I have to, because it’s survival, especially when I was a child fighting grown men.”
And it was often men, plural, he said.
“They don’t come in there and fight you by themselves. There’s three guys in there abusing you in whatever capacity they want to abuse you. They don’t do it by themselves,” he said. “It became a sporting event for them. It’s a sporting event for grown men. It’s survival for children.”