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Kelly Ayotte’s role in alleged YDC cover-up under fire from 2024 Republican candidates, victims

Kelly Ayotte’s role in alleged YDC cover-up under fire from 2024 Republican candidates, victims

Republican candidate for Executive Council Terese Basterache has accused frontrunner Republican candidate for governor Kelly Ayotte of knowing about long-standing abuse occuring at the Sununu Youth Development Center during her time as as Attorney General. (Youtube)

By Colin Booth

July 10, 2024

Allegations of a systemic cover-up of abuse at the Sununu Youth Development Center, which has been under criminal investigation by the state since 2019, have resurfaced from Republicans running for office in 2024, focusing on Kelly Ayotte’s role during her tenure as New Hampshire Attorney General.

The accusations against Ayotte intensified during two major protests in August of 2023 and June of this year, where victims shared harrowing stories of abuse beyond a backdrop where Ayotte’s name and image was displayed prominently on posters tying her alleged complicity in the cover-up.

Terese Bastarache, Republican Executive Council candidate for District 4, and other speakers accused Ayotte of either being aware of the abuse happening at the facility — which included rape and beatings of residents — or grossly negligent in her duties during her time as Attorney General.

Bastarache described the haunting conditions of sexual violence residents of the Sununu Youth Development Center were subjected to, saying they were forced to “beat each other up, and whoever wasn’t knocked out got to go back to the room. But the ones that were knocked out, guess what? They got sodomized.”

Bastarache then pointed directly at a photograph of Ayotte and said, “The AG, who knew this was happening, wants to continue to legislate for all of us to continue to bury it for, what, another 170 years?”

According to a consolidated master complaint reported by InDepthNH, sexual and physical abuse at the Sununu Youth Development Center was known for decades and allegedly covered up by several state officials, including several past attorneys general. 

Ayotte in the past has claimed, through a spokesperson, she had no knowledge of the abuse happening at the Sununu center. However, a 2010 report prepared by the Disabilities Rights Center (DRC) shows Ayotte’s office did in fact have exposure to abuse allegations while she was in office.

Investigating one incident, the report states that in June 2008, an alleged incident of abuse occurred against a youth at the center on June 9, 2008, Two employees allegedly used “unnecessary and excessive force” while restraining a 14 year old boy committed to the facility.

The incident was eventually reported to the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families by the boy’s legal Guardian, which prompted an investigation by the NH AG’s office.

The results of Ayotte’s office’s investigation found no wrongdoing or abuse had occurred, an outcome challenged by the DRC.

RELATED: Resurfaced Video of Kelly Ayotte Is Going Viral

Frank staples, a former resident of the SYDC and organizer of the protests said Ayotte’s inaction during her tenure as Attorney General was disqualifying.

“She claims she didn’t know anything… there were reports as far back as 1990 that she had to have known about and she’s claiming complete ignorance. That’s not a good sign.” said Staples, who is also running for governor this year as a Republican. “Either she knew, or she was, you know, ignorant and she’s still culpable for what she was supposed to do to protect these children.”

In 2021, eleven state employees were arrested in connection with the abuse. By 2024, around 1,300 former residents had come forward to allege abuse during their time at the facility. The state established a $100 million fund to settle abuse claims in 2023, although critics, including some victims, have deemed this amount inadequate.

In May of this year a jury found the state liable for abuse at the facility, awarding one victim, David Meehan, $38 million in damages after he was “beaten, raped and held in solitary confinement as a teen” according to reporting from the Associated Press, though that sum may change on appeals.

Some legal observers have speculated settlements could ultimately stretch into half a billion dollars, with costs from borrowing for the payouts inflating that number further.

State Senator Cindy Rosenwald, a member of the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee overseeing how the state would allocate funds for settlements to victims, said that while Ayotte was not alone in sharing responsibility for the abuse which took place at the facility, her position at the time and current attempt to seek higher office set her apart.

“Many people failed to ensure those kids were protected, but only one of them is now trying to run the state. The Attorney General should know what’s going on around the state and make sure that the kids who are in our care are being protected and are not being abused and assaulted,” Rosenwald said.

This situation is not the first time Ayotte has turned a blind eye towards abuse of minors. Earlier this year State Representative Jon Stone, a key political ally and endorser of Ayotte, was revealed to have allegedly carried on a relationship with a minor after a police disciplinary reports were made public. Ayotte refused to denounce his endorsement and has kept his name featured among her public endorsers.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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