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Graphic, emotional day on the stand for plaintiff in landmark NH child abuse suit

YDC plaintiff David Meehan testifies in his civil trial at Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood on April 17, 2024. David Lane/Union Leader POOL
YDC plaintiff David Meehan testifies in his civil trial at Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood on April 17, 2024. David Lane/Union Leader POOL

The plaintiff in the closely-watched civil trial over alleged child abuse at New Hampshire’s juvenile jail delivered testimony Thursday so graphic and emotional, he asked for an early recess.

David Meehan described for jurors in Rockingham Superior Court several episodes in 1997 where he claims staff at the former Youth Development Center (YDC) raped and beat him. Meehan was 14 years old when he entered state custody at YDC.

Meehan testified he was first raped by Frank Davis, a former employee who is now facing criminal charges for alleged abuse at YDC. Davis has pled not guilty.

Meehan said Davis and another staffer entered his cell at YDC, ordered him to strip, and told him they needed to do a cavity search for contraband.

“It wasn’t his finger that he put in me,” said Meehan, struggling with his emotions. “I was barely 15. It’s my first real sexual experience.”

“So you lost your virginity to Frank Davis?” asked Meehan’s attorney, Rus Rilee.

“I’m not going to accept that, like, in my life anymore. So, no. I was raped as a little boy by somebody who should not have been in a position and been allowed to do that.”

Weeks later, Meehan said he went to the nurse with symptoms that she told him were consistent with gonorrhea. He testified he was prescribed an antibiotic and was quarantined with other boys who were also taking the medication.

“It changes me, in a way,” said Meehan, describing how he felt after the alleged rape. “It’s one of the moments in my life where I know something has changed. Something is different.”

Months later, Meehan testified he was befriended by another staffer at YDC, Jeffrey Buskey. Meehan said Buskey encouraged him and gave him special privileges, including a sought-after job assignment, snacks, and the opportunity to play on a basketball team outside of YDC.

“At that point, I have a father figure,” said Meehan. “I have a man in my life that I’ve built a relationship with.”

In October of 1997, Meehan said Buskey told him, “I bet I can get you to dump your girlfriend and suck my d*** in the same day.” Meehan testified he thought Buskey was joking.

Meehan said Buskey then threatened that he would not be able to go home on a furlough from YDC if he did not break up with his girlfriend by phone. Meehan said he complied.

Meehan said he collapsed on the floor crying as he hung up the phone. “The way [Buskey] was positioned, he just scoots his chair forward as he’s undoing his pants.”

Meehan testified Buskey then orally raped him.

“And I just sit there, crying, until he’s done,” said Meehan, addressing the jurors sitting a few feet from him. “I am angry. I am angry just sitting here trying to talk about it. And trying to control those emotions for the benefit of everybody else here right now.”

Buskey is currently facing criminal charges for the abuse Meehan alleges. He has pled not guilty.

Meehan testified that during a period of roughly 30 days in the fall of 1997, Buskey raped him two to three times a week. He also said during the same period, another former staffer, Stephen Murphy, also violently raped him approximately four times.

Murphy is also charged criminally for alleged sexual assaults at YDC. He has also pled not guilty.

Meehan also testified in another alleged incident Buskey forced him to watch as he sexually assaulted a girl who was detained at YDC.

“He used her to show me how to perform oral sex,” said Meehan. “He used this poor little girl to try to teach that poor little boy (referring to a photograph of himself at age 14 displayed on courtroom monitors) who couldn’t do anything other than f***ing sit there with his mouth open how to give a blow job.”

Meehan was emotional at times during his second day on the witness stand. By the afternoon, after hours of testifying about the graphic details of the abuse he allegedly suffered, he asked to take a break.

“I want to be real tough and just sit here and run through all this, but…” said Meehan, trailing off. The judge then ordered a recess and later decided to conclude witness testimony for the day.

Meehan's lawsuit claims the state of New Hampshire enabled his alleged abuse at YDC. His case is the first of more than 1,100 other civil lawsuits aimed at the state over similar allegations from 1960 to 2019.

Meehan is expected to continue testifying on Friday.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.
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