Judge dismisses all criminal charges against leaders of Holyoke Soldiers’ Home

HOLYOKE, Mass. — Monday afternoon, a Hampden Superior Court Judge dismissed all criminal charges against former Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former medical director David Clinton in the high-profile investigation of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and the deaths of veterans there.

The two had been charged following the COVID-19 outbreak that saw nearly 80 veteran residents die due to COVID-19.

The state had charged Walsh and Clinton with five counts each of elder neglect, and five counts of permitting serious bodily injury to an elder. The charges stemmed from a decision to merge two dementia housing units at the soldiers’ home on March 27, 2020, during the early days of the pandemic. The decision to merge the units was based on staffing shortages.

Prosecutors argued that decision increased veterans’ exposure to COVID-19, “causing them to suffer dehydration and malnutrition.”

In his ruling, Superior Court Justice, Edward McDonough agreed with arguments by Walsh and Clinton to dismiss the charges saying, “the five named veterans were already exposed to Covid-19 before the dementia unit merger ever occurred.”

“There was insufficient reasonably trustworthy evidence presented to the grand jury that, these two dementia units not been merged, the medical condition of any of these five veterans would have been materially different.” McDonough ruled.

Walsh and Clinton previously pleaded not guilty to 10 criminal counts including abuse and neglect. They filed the motion in August to dismiss the charges.

Justice McDonough did just that on Monday dismissing all indictments against Walsh and Clinton.

Jillian Fennimore, a spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey said “We are very disappointed in today’s ruling, especially on behalf of the innocent victims and families harmed by the defendants’ actions. We are evaluating our legal options moving forward.”

The daughter of a veteran who died at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home tells Boston 25 she is still in shock and disgusted about what happened.

“There were things that myself and other family members saw first hand that were absolutely not ok and there was a lack of leadership and preparedness that had a direct effect on too many,” said Susan Kenney. “From withholding PPE to not properly screening staff and a general lack of basic infection control and universal precaution procedures.”

Justice McDonough also ruled that “even if evidence were sufficient to support a finding of probable cause to believe that the five named veterans suffered bodily injury and neglect, the charges against Mr. Walsh and Dr. Clinton must still be dismissed because neither defendant is the ‘caretaker of an elder.’”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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