In this April 8, 2021, file photo, Jeffrey Buskey is arraigned via video as Judge William Lyons presides, at right, at District Court in Manchester, New Hampshire. Credit: Elise Amendola / AP

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.

CONCORD, New Hampshire — A former New Hampshire youth center worker accused of sexually assaulting four teenagers, including one at gunpoint, asked a judge Tuesday to release him from jail or lower his bail pending trial.

Jeffrey Buskey, 54, of Quincy, Massachusetts, was one of seven former workers at the Youth Development Center in Manchester who were arrested earlier this month and charged with either sexual assault or being accomplices to abuse between 1994 and 2005. The center, now called the Sununu Youth Services Center, has been the target of a broad criminal investigation since 2019, as well as a lawsuit in which more than 200 men and women allege they were physically or sexually abused as children by 150 staffers from 1963 to 2018.

Buskey and another former counselor had been charged in 2019 with raping a teenage boy 82 times in the 1990s, but those charges were dropped last year in order to strengthen the expanded investigation. The fact that he didn’t flee before being arrested a second time shows that he is not a flight risk, his attorney said Tuesday.

“This is a unique case where the court has evidence of how an individual will act if released on bail,” public defender Shelagh O’Donnell said. “Mr. Buskey has demonstrated that he will abide by the conditions of bail that are set.”

O’Donnell asked the judge to either release Buskey on personal recognizance or lower his bail amount from $50,000 to $5,000. Bail was set at $3,000 to $100,000 for the other men, five of whom have been released, she said.

“This situation quite frankly demonstrates the problem with cash bail, which is that for similarly situated defendants, those with money can bail out pretrial and those without money remain incarcerated,” she said. “It simply does not follow that someone who has immediate access to thousands of dollars is less of a flight risk than someone who is indigent. Mr. Buskey does not have the means to flee, but more importantly, he has demonstrated that he does not have the intent to flee.”

Buskey originally faced 56 sexual assault charges involving David Meehan, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. He now faces only five charges, but they involve three additional victims.

“The circumstances have materially changed. Mr. Buskey has never demonstrated to this court his behavior while he’s been on bail for four separate individuals who have now come forward with allegations,” said Assistant Attorney General Timothy Sullivan, who asked the judge to maintain bail at $50,000. “There is a significant difference in facing allegations from one individual and facing allegations from four individuals.”

Meehan alleges that Buskey not only frequently assaulted him at the youth center but once took him to his apartment and forced him into a sex act at gunpoint. That allegation was included in the original indictments against Buskey but not in the current charges.

“It’s important to note that Mr. Buskey was in fact a police officer during that time and had access to a firearm, specifically his duty weapon,” Sullivan said.

Buskey worked as a part-time police officer in Raymond in the mid-90s and as an officer and detective in Sanbornton, NHPR reported.

The other charges include allegations that Buskey participated in the gang rape of another boy and sexually assaulted a teenage girl. The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault unless they choose to identify themselves publicly, as Meehan has done.

Story by Holly Ramer.