CONCORD, N.H. – A former intern at New Hampshire’s youth detention center says a supervisor suggested she destroy her notes and lie about a teen’s sexual assault allegation. And though she reported the boy’s claim to state investigators and police, it wasn’t included in an annual report that state officials submitted to the federal government.
Mary Goddard spent two days a week at the Sununu Youth Services Center in 2017 and 2018 as part of a master’s degree program at the University of New Hampshire. The Manchester facility, formerly called the Youth Development Center, has been the target of a broad criminal investigation since July 2019, and more than 200 men and women have joined a lawsuit in the last year alleging they were physically or sexually abused as children by 150 staffers from 1963 to 2018.
Goddard said she was providing individual counseling to a 17-year-old boy in October 2017 when he told her he had been molested by a former counselor who was facing criminal charges related to another teen at the time. In that case, the counselor later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual assault and witness tampering in a plea deal in which prosecutors dropped 22 other charges, including 12 counts of rape.
Goddard said a supervisor she approached responded, “Well, she’s not here anymore, so he’s not in any danger.” A few hours later, he told her to call the central intake office at the state Division of Children, Youth and Families to report the allegation, which she did. But when she asked him what she should do with her notes from the counseling session, he told her to “get rid of them,” she said.
“I said, ‘There’s an active criminal case going on. What if charges are brought against her, shouldn’t I hold on to these? What happens if I get subpoenaed?’” said Goddard. “He said, ‘Oh, you can just tell them that you don’t remember what happened.’”
Under state law, it is illegal to alter or destroy evidence knowing that an investigation is pending or about to begin with the intent of impairing its use in such an investigation.
Francis Williams, a professor of criminal justice at Plymouth State University, said he couldn’t comment on whether destroying the notes would have been a crime because he is not a lawyer and doesn’t have all the facts. But he said in general, the supervisor should have known that such notes could be subject to subpoena.
“I’m looking upon that very unfavorably, the idea that the supervisor would tell her to destroy the notes. And then, ‘Tell them you don’t remember?’ Excuse me?” he said. “He’s telling her to basically lie, at least initially to investigators and perhaps if she’s subpoenaed, to lie to the court, which could put her in jeopardy of being charged with perjury.”