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NH seeks to dismiss some youth center suits as they top 100

December 8, 2021 GMT

The number of lawsuits alleging physical or sexual abuse at New Hampshire’s youth detention center has grown to more than 100, though the attorney general’s office is seeking to dismiss some it says lack detail.

In the last two years, more than 430 men and women have come forward with accusations against 150 staffers at the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester. The allegations span six decades, and 11 former staffers face criminal charges.

A judge dismissed a class action lawsuit in May, leaving only the lead plaintiff’s claims intact and setting off a flood of nearly identical individual lawsuits against the state and former employees over the last few months. Attorney Rus Rilee, who represents all plaintiffs, filed the 102nd case Wednesday, a day after state Attorney General John Formella said he wants two of the earlier claims against the state thrown out.

“Most of these suits are being filed with very limited information regarding the claims,” Formella said in a statement. “The State has a need to have sufficient information regarding these claims.”

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Plaintiffs can refile their lawsuits with additional information, Formella said, and the motion to dismiss “should in no way be considered as a lack of support for the victims of crime.”

Rilee, however, said that instead of treating his clients with the dignity and respect they deserve, the state is “revictimizing them for telling their stories.”

“The idea that the state doesn’t have enough information to defend these cases is absurd since it is the state that is prosecuting these same employees who beat, raped and tortured these survivors,” he said.

While one division of the attorney general’s office has been defending the state against the lawsuits, the criminal division launched a broad investigation into the center and its operations in 2019. Together, the 11 former staffers arrested in April are charged with nearly 100 counts of either sexually assaulting or acting as accomplices to the assault of more than a dozen teenagers from 1994 to 2007.

The Manchester facility, formerly called the Youth Development Center, serves children ordered to a secure institutional setting by the juvenile justice system. The average population last year was just 17 residents overseen by about 90 employees, though it once housed upward of 100 youths and employed a larger staff. The current state budget calls for replacing it with a much smaller facility by March 2023.