HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A criminal case can continue against two former leaders of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home after more than 70 veterans died during the outbreak.
Former Medical Director David Clinton and Superintendent Bennett Walsh are accused of elder neglect but court documents also reveal some new information about the case. According to the documents, they were offered ways to avoid this crisis, instead Walsh and Clinton chose to consolidate a unit, going against COVID-19 guidance.
The state Supreme Judicial Court’s decision cites evidence presented to a grand jury in late 2020 in why it will continue to allow the criminal case to go forward against Former Medical Director David Clinton and Superintendent Bennett Walsh. Showing that 17 days after a state of emergency was declared in Massachusetts due to the pandemic, the two chose to put 42 Veterans onto one floor meant for 25 people to address the staffing shortages.
The jury was told by witnesses residents were in beds less than two feet apart. “Some veterans were nonresponsive…” adding, “Those with COVID-19 symptoms intermingled with those without.”
22News spoke with Tom Lesser, an attorney who represented the families in the $56 million settlement in the civil suit. He feels a superior judge should not have stopped this case from moving forward.
“When you have probable cause that a crime was committed, indictments should be brought and the jury should have the right to hear them. The jury has the right to hear them. The defendants have a right to bring in evidence to the contrary at trial,” said Lesser.
The documents also reveal the Chief Operating Officer of Holyoke Medical Center reached out multiple times to Walsh and Clinton to offer help before the units were consolidated. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court determined in a 5 to 2 vote that the jury heard testimony that would warrant finding probable cause.
In his dissent, Supreme Judicial Court Justice David Lowy argued that while he agreed the court had probable cause to say the defendants were caretakers, there was insufficient evidence the defendants acted wantonly or recklessly.