A Massachusetts judge dismissed criminal charges against two former top officials of a veterans home after at least 76 veterans died from COVID-19 following an outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. Judge Edward J. McDonough, Jr., found on Monday that there was “insufficient reasonably trustworthy evidence” that Bennett Walsh and Dr. David Clinton harmed veterans they oversaw.
The case against Walsh, the home’s ex-superintendent, and Clinton, its former medical director, was brought by Attorney General Maura Healey. In what is believed to be the first U.S. prosecution of nursing home caregivers over decisions made to do with the pandemic, Healey convinced a grand jury to indict the pair in Sept. 2020 in relation to their treatment of five veterans affected after Walsh and Clinton made the “worst decision” to combine two dementia units. The merger, Healey argued, endangered healthy veterans placed in the same unit as infected residents.
McDonogh’s 22-page ruling decided that the five veterans had likely been exposed to the coronavirus prior to the merger. The judge also wrote that neither Walsh nor Clinton met the definition of “caretaker,” meaning the men can’t be charged with elder abuse.