Sep. 23—BRENTWOOD — Former recovery center owner Eric Spofford is suing New Hampshire Public Radio, its news director and two reporters over publicized accusations that he sexually assaulted two employees and harassed a former client.
The 90-page lawsuit filed Tuesday in Rockingham Superior Court describes the NHPR coverage — a 4,000-word article and accompanying 30-minute podcast — as a "baseless assassination of his character."
"Eric has not sexually assaulted anyone," his attorneys wrote in the court paperwork. "Nor has any law enforcement agency ever accused him of doing so. Only NHPR has."
No specific dollar amount is listed, but Spofford wants a jury to hear the case and award him damages for "personal, professional, and moral reputational harm, emotional harm, embarrassment, humiliation, and pain and suffering."
Spofford is the founder and former owner of Granite Recovery Centers, sold nearly a year ago to BayMark Health in a 9-figure deal.
NHPR told its audience that the March 2022 coverage followed a year-long investigation led by senior reporters Lauren Chooljian and Jason Moon. They are named in the lawsuit along with news director Dan Barrick.
In response, the statewide radio news service provided the following written statement to The Eagle-Tribune: "NHPR stands by its reporting and will vigorously defend our journalism."
Spofford and his team of attorneys have sweeping criticisms, from the article's headline — "He built New Hampshire's largest addiction treatment network. Now, he faces accusations of sexual misconduct." — to anonymous sources and their assertions of fact.
One alleged victim chose only to be identified in the article by her middle name for fear of repercussions.
She told NHPR reporters that the day after she left one of Spofford's treatment centers in 2017, "she received unsolicited, explicit Snapchat messages, including a photo of a penis and invitations to meet for sex."
She attributed her opioid relapse two weeks later to the exchanges.
A second voice was identified as "Employee A," and a third, "Employee B," was not interviewed by the NHPR team, but instead her story was told through three other employees.
The article states, "More than a dozen former (Granite Recovery Center) employees told NHPR they've known for years that Spofford acted inappropriately with female staff. These sources range from high-ranking managers to entry-level staff."
Reporters said that interviews were conducted with "nearly 50 former clients, current and past employees, and others in New Hampshire's recovery community."
At the center of the reporting is Spofford's longtime friend, recovery sponsor and former director of spiritual life at GRC, Piers Kaniuka, who told NHPR, "(Spofford) should be shunned, shamed and probably prosecuted."
"Kaniuka said that when he went to work at GRC, he knew 'fully well that (Spofford) had liabilities,'" the article reads.
He's quoted, "I certainly didn't know he was going to turn out to be like Harvey Weinstein. I wouldn't have (joined the company) if I had known that."
But according to the lawsuit, Kaniuka retracted the statement after seeing it published.
"He told NHPR's Board of Trustees that his statements about Mr. Spofford were inaccurate, not based on personal knowledge, and went unvetted before publication," attorneys said.
The legal team said litigation could have been stopped if NHPR published Kaniuka's letter.
Spofford says now that he has been cost "status as a leader of the substance use disorder recovery industry."
Financial institutions have also declined to do business with him, he said, and vendors have abruptly resigned from working with Spofford Enterprises, an "entrepreneurial investment firm specializing in real estate and venture capital," according to its website.
Spofford has also, "been distanced from working with New Hampshire politicians," a stark contrast from invitations to testify on the opioid epidemic before a U.S. Senate committee in recent years.
Spofford has publicized his own struggles with addiction and subsequent 16 years in recovery. He went on to build New Hampshire's largest addiction treatment network when the country was in the throes of an epidemic.