25 Investigates: Former Soldiers’ Home leaders want criminal charges against them dismissed

BOSTON — Two former leaders of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home want the criminal charges against them dismissed because they claim what happened to the veterans there wasn’t their fault. 25 Investigates was in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield Tuesday when their attorneys made the case.

Family members of the 77 veterans from the Holyoke facility who died after contracting COVID-19 during the outbreak in the spring of 2020 have been pushing for justice. But lawyers for the men who were running operations at the home at that time say the blame does not lie with them and worked to poke holes in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s case.

Former superintendent Bennett Walsh and former medical director David Clinton previously pleaded not guilty to 10 criminal counts including abuse and neglect.

Attorneys for Walsh claimed Tuesday the indictment is “defective” because their client was not responsible for the “direct care” of the veterans. They claim Walsh followed the guidance of the medical experts who advised him.

>>>MORE: 25 Investigates: Families fighting for new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home 1 year after deadly outbreak

“We don’t think anyone here should be blamed criminally for anything,” said Michael Jennings, an attorney for Walsh. “The blame here belongs with the virus. Not with anyone who worked in that nursing home.”

The attorney for Clinton claims he was just a “part-time clinician” and that it was COVID-19 and not their client’s actions that caused the death of the veterans. Family members in court Tuesday told 25 Investigates they’re not buying it.

“They were the captains of the ship. And they let the ship sink,” said Laurie Mandeville Beaudette.

Her father, James Mandeville, contracted COVID-19 in April 2020 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

“I just hope they’re all held accountable,” she said.

>>>MORE: Report: ‘Hell broke loose’ after series of leadership errors at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home

Beaudette said she watched her dad fade away over FaceTime. Mandeville served in the U.S. Navy.

25 investigates has covered the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID outbreak extensively. Our team obtained internal emails that showed confusion and chaos among administrators as staff struggled to keep the outbreak under control in the spring of 2020. They also revealed veterans’ units were hastily combined, possibly exposing even more veterans to the virus.

The judge is expected to make a ruling on the motion to dismiss the charges by October 28.

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