AG Healey: Two former leaders of Holyoke Soldiers’ Home were the “ultimate decision makers” as COVID-19 spread

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – On Friday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced criminal charges against two former leaders of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

The two are Superintendent Bennett Walsh and Medical Director Dr. David Clinton who were on the frontlines, as COVID-19 infected veterans and staff throughout the facility.

Walsh and Dr. Clinton are charged with five counts of neglect of an elder or disabled person and five counts of causing or permitting serious bodily injury to an elder. Both could face decades in prison if convicted.

A total of 247 veterans lived at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home before the outbreak began. Of those, 160 became infected and 76 veterans died of the virus.

Former Superintendent Paul Barabani knew the conditions at the home were suitable for a rapidly spreading virus, “I had very serious concerns about that from the start. Knowing that we had three to four people in a room, knowing we had community showers, there are just so many opportunities for the spread of infection.”

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A statewide grand jury indicted 50-year-old Bennett Walsh and 71-year-old Dr. David Clinton. Attorney General Maura Healey said she charged these two because they were the “ultimate decision makers” at the home.

According to Attorney General Healey, the charges are based on their decision to move five veterans into a dining room at the Soldiers’ Home. Those veterans were all asymptotic at the time. Three of them contracted the virus and one of them died.

Walsh’s attorney Bill Bennett told 22News the veterans were already exposed to the virus long before the merge was done. He said Walsh had to find a solution to the lack of available staff, many of whom called out when the outbreak began.

Walsh and Clinton will be arraigned in Hampden Superior Court. 22News will let you know when a court date has been set.

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