Former Officials of Holyoke Veterans Home Settle Criminal Case Without Jail Time

Former officials of the Veterans’ Home in Holyoke, Bennett Walsh and Dr. David Clinton, have settled their criminal case without having to go to jail. The settlement comes after the Massachusetts’ highest court reinstated five counts of criminal neglect against them, making theirs the first criminal case in the country related to nursing home deaths during the pandemic.

Prosecutors had sought guilty pleas and three years probation, including one year of home confinement, citing the poor conditions and lack of staffing at the facility. They argued for a sentence that would merit real consequences. However, defense attorneys argued that the court should consider the early days of the pandemic when the dangers of the disease were poorly understood. They also claimed that Walsh had raised concerns about the conditions at the home, but those warnings were not acted upon by higher authorities.

Hampden Superior Court Judge Edward J. McDonough accepted the defense’s request to continue each charge without a finding for a three-month probationary period. This plea acknowledges that the facts in the case could result in a guilty verdict on each count. The ruling has sparked anger from the state, with Attorney General Andrea Campbell expressing disappointment and stating that the justice system failed the families who lost their loved ones at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

Walsh and Clinton had pleaded not guilty in 2020 to charges stemming from their decision to combine two dementia units in March of that year, which resulted in the mixing of COVID-19 positive residents with those who had no symptoms. A 2022 state Inspector General’s report criticized Walsh’s leadership skills and temperament, highlighting his lack of experience in running a healthcare facility when he was hired in 2016.

In 2021, the charges against Walsh and Clinton were dismissed by McDonough, who found insufficient evidence that the merging of the dementia units would have materially affected the medical condition of the veterans in question. However, Massachusetts’ highest court reinstated the charges last year, stating that the facts presented to the grand jury constituted probable cause.

Author: CrimeDoor

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