What Are the Charges Reinstated by Massachusetts High Court for Officials at COVID-ravaged Veterans’ Home?

The highest court in Massachusetts has decided to revive charges against administrators at the COVID-affected Veterans’ Home. Bennett Walsh and David Clinton have been charged with neglect in connection with approximately 80 de@ths at the Massachusetts Veterans’ Home in Holyoke.

On Thursday, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts reversed the decision of a judge from a lower court and revived criminal neglect charges against two former top executives at a veterans’ home. During one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks ever seen at a long-term care institution in the United States.

Nearly eighty veterans who contracted the coronavirus at the Veterans’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, pas*ed away. Because of the verdict, the prosecution against Bennett Walsh, who had previously served as the facility’s superintendent, and Dr. David Clinton, who had previously served as its medical director, will now proceed.

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In their decision, most of the justices found that the facts presented to the grand jury constituted probable cause to believe that Walsh and Clinton violated the elder abuse statute and that Hampden Superior Court Judge Edward McDonough Jr. erred in dismissing the charges.

Charges Reinstated by Massachusetts High Court for Officials at COVID ravaged Veterans home
Charges Reinstated by Massachusetts High Court for Officials at COVID ravaged Veterans home

Additionally, the majority of the justices found that Hampden Superior Court Judge Edward McDonough Jr.’s decision to dismiss the charges was an error. The court ruled:

“Of course, sometimes bad things happen for no discernable reason, and no one is to blame. At any subsequent trial, prosecutors will need to prove their case. We conclude only that they will have the opportunity to do so.”

In 2020, Walsh and Clinton entered a not-guilty plea to charges that stemmed from their decision in March of that year to combine two dementia units. As a result of this choice, patients who were positive for the coronavirus were packed into the same area as people who did not have signs of the virus.

Not November of 2021, McDonough concluded that there was “insufficient reasonably trustworthy evidence that, had these two dementia units not been merged, the medical condition” of the five veterans not questioned would have been fundamentally different.

The families of deceased servicemen filed a class-action lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2017, and the state ultimately agreed to pay $56 million to settle the case. The ruling made on Thursday was met with approval by Attorney General Andrea Campbell.

She released a written statement that she stated,

“Today’s decision allows us to focus once again on securing accountability for the tragic and preventable de@ths at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.”

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