Ex-leaders of Massachusetts veterans’ home avoid prison over COVID outbreak

BOSTON (Reuters) – Two former leaders of a Massachusetts veterans’ home that was the site of one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks at a U.S. long-term care facility on Tuesday resolved criminal neglect charges against them without having to go to prison.

Former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director David Clinton withdrew their previous not guilty pleas during hearings in Hampshire Superior Court and admitted there were facts sufficient to find them guilty of the charges against them, prosecutors said.

The case had been set to go to trial next week. State prosecutors had asked for both men to be sentenced to one year of home confinement, with three years of probation.

At the urging of defense lawyers, Justice Edward McDonough instead continued the cases against them without a finding of guilt for a three-month period, at which point the charges could be dismissed if they comply with certain conditions.

Those requirements include barring them from working in a nursing home or initiating contact with victims’ families. The judge had previously dismissed the case, but Massachusetts’ highest court revived it last year.

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell said she was “disappointed and disheartened” by the judge’s decision. “Today the justice system failed the families who lost their loved ones at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” Campbell said.