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Criminal Charges Filed Against Former Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent And Medical Director

Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey is bringing criminal charges against the former superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Bennett Walsh, and the facility’s former medical director, Dr. David Clinton, for their roles in the deadly COVID-19 outbreak that swept through the facility earlier this spring and killed 76 veterans.

In a statement, her office revealed that on Thursday, a grand jury indicted Walsh and Clinton on multiple charges. Each defendant faces five counts of being a “Caretaker Who Wantonly or Recklessly Commits or Permits Bodily Injury to an Elder or Disabled Person” and five counts of being a “Caretaker Who Wantonly or Recklessly Commits or Permits Abuse, Neglect, or Mistreatment to an Elder or Disabled Person.”

“We began this investigation on behalf of the families who lost loved ones under tragic circumstances and to honor these men who bravely served our country,” Healey said in a statement. “We allege that the actions of these defendants during the COVID-19 outbreak at the facility put veterans at higher risk of infection and death and warrant criminal charges.”

The charges relate mostly to the decision on March 27 to consolidate two dementia units of the building, a move that mixed COVID-positive residents with COVID-negative residents. As WBUR has previously reported, despite employee objections, the home’s leadership team made the call to move residents because they were concerned about staffing shortages. At the time, the coronavirus had been sweeping through the facility for more than a week, and staff — who lacked proper personal protective equipment — were falling ill and calling out.

According to a statement from Healey office, “These decisions, which were ultimately the responsibility of Walsh and Clinton, were reckless and increased the likelihood that asymptomatic veterans at [the Soldiers’ Home] would contract COVID-19 and put them at higher risk of death and harm.”

An independent state investigation into the matter called the move “utterly baffling” and “the opposite of infection control.”

In the past, a lawyer for Walsh has repeatedly called the state report inaccurate and charged that the governor is using his client as a scapegoat. Walsh’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment today about the charge.

Walsh and Clinton are expected to be arraigned in Hampden County Superior Court in the near future.

This is a developing story and this post will be updated.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Flags outside of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. (Miriam Wasser/WBUR)
Flags outside of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. (Miriam Wasser/WBUR)

Copyright 2020 WBUR

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