Former head of Massachusetts veterans home avoids jail time as 76 die in coronavirus pandemic

  • Former officials Bennett Walsh and Dr. David Clinton settled criminal cases related to the COVID-19 outbreak at a veterans home in Massachusetts.
  • They face criminal negligence charges after at least 76 people died at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
  • The judge accepted their pleas of not guilty and continued with each charge without any outcome during the three-month probation period.

Two former officials at Veterans Home in massachusetts At least 76 people who died in long-term care facilities during one of the nation’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks resolved their criminal cases Tuesday without jail time.

Bennett Walsh, the former president of the Holyoke Veterans Home, and Dr. David Clinton, the hospital’s former medical director, face five counts of negligence after the Massachusetts Supreme Court last year overturned a lower court judge’s ruling and reinstated the charges. Criminal charges.

they are the first crime case Bring lawsuits against anyone in the country related to nursing home deaths during the pandemic.

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Prosecutors have sought a guilty plea and three years of probation on the charges, including one year of home confinement. They noted that the facility’s poor conditions and lack of staff warranted a sentence “with real consequences.”

Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Holyoke, Massachusetts, May 29, 2018. Two former officers at a veterans home settled their criminal cases Tuesday without jail time. The hospital’s long-term care facility has had one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, killing at least 76 people. (Patrick Johnson/Republican via AP, File)

But defense attorneys argued that the court must take into account the fact that it was early in the pandemic, when little was known about the dangers of the disease, and that the facility, like many nursing homes at the time, suffered from a lack of adequate resources. hinder. Staffing and limited testing. They also argued that Walsh raised alarms about conditions at the home but that those warnings were not reported up the chain of command.

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They sought Hampton Superior Court Judge Edward J. McDonough to accept their request to continue serving each charge without a resolution and serve a three-month probation period if they Admission of the facts of the case may result in a guilty verdict on each count.

Dozens of veterans die in Massachusetts elder care facility amid ‘terrifying’ coronavirus outbreak

The ruling sparked national outrage.

“Today, the justice system failed the families who lost loved ones at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” state Attorney General Andrea Campbell said in a statement. “I am disappointed and dismayed by the court’s decision and hope these… Families and our veterans know that my office makes every effort to pursue accountability. We will continue to be vigilant in prosecuting cases of elder abuse and neglect.”

Susan Kenney, whose father Charles Lowell died of Covid-19 at home, told the court she was shocked by the ruling.

“It’s disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” she said. “It’s just an injustice. There’s no accountability. They need to be role models. Everyone knows the virus is spreading. You can’t contaminate people. There are basic things you don’t do but they get done because their leadership is terrible .”

Walsh and Clinton pleaded not guilty in 2020 to charges stemming from a decision in March of that year to merge two dementia units, which brought coronavirus-positive residents together with those who were asymptomatic.

A 2022 state inspector general report found that Walsh lacked the leadership skills and temperament to manage such a facility when he was hired in 2016. The 91-page report — which covers the period from May 2016 to February 2020 (just before the pandemic) — is also highly critical of the process by which Walsh was hired as dean.

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Walsh, a former Marine who resigned after criminal charges, had no supervisory experience in a health care setting or skilled nursing facility when he was hired. However, under state law, the director of the institution at the time was not required to have such experience.

In 2021, MacDonald dismissed the charges. McDonald found there was “insufficient reasonably credible evidence that the medical conditions would have been different if the two dementia units had not been combined” five veterans The issues discussed will be materially different.

But last year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court reinstated the charges. In their ruling, the majority held that the facts presented to the grand jury constituted probable cause that Walsh and Clinton violated the Elder Abuse Act and that Hampton Superior Court Judge Edward McDonald Jr. erred The charges were dismissed.

In 2022, Massachusetts agreed to pay $56 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by families of fallen veterans.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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