Mass. Vet Home Leaders Charged Over Deadly Virus Outbreak

This is a truly alarming development.  As with the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Irma, politicians are criminalizing people who are struggling to handle an unprecedented pandemic that no one in the U.S. was prepared to handle.

Law360 (September 25, 2020, 12:14 PM EDT) — Two top officials at a Massachusetts soldiers’ home were criminally charged Friday with negligence for their role in a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 76 veterans, in what Attorney General Maura Healey called the first criminal case in the country against nursing home operators related to the pandemic.

Two top officials at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home were charged with negligence Friday for their role in a COVID-19 outbreak that killed 76 veterans. (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Bennett Walsh, 50, the superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, and the facility’s former medical director Dr. David Clinton, 71, were each charged with wantonly or recklessly permitting bodily injury or abuse to the residents.

“They risked their lives from the beaches of Normandy to some of the jungles of Vietnam, and to know that they died under the most horrific circumstance is truly shocking,” Healey said at a Friday morning press conference. “We believe this is the first criminal case in the country brought against those in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Healey’s investigation, launched in April 2020, found that staffing shortages led to a decision to consolidate two dementia units, resulting in symptomatic and confirmed COVID-19 positive residents being placed within feet of other veterans at the facility. Healey’s office places the responsibility for that decision with Walsh and Clinton.

Representatives for Walsh and Clinton were not immediately available for comment Friday.

The state is represented by Kevin Lownds, Philip Schreiber, Kaushal Rana, Steven Pfister, and Shelby Stephens of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. 

Walsh is represented by Tracy Miner of Miner Orkand Siddall LLP.

Clinton is represented by Jim Lawson and John Lawler at Prince Lobel Tye LLP.

–Editing by Alyssa Miller.

Update: This story has been updated with counsel information for the parties.