Neglect Charges Dismissed Against Leaders of Veterans Home in COVID Deaths of 76

Former leaders for the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, Bennet Walsh and Dr. David Clinton, were dismissed of criminal neglect charges in the COVID-related deaths of around 80 veterans.

Hampden Superior Court Judge Edward McDonough Jr. dismissed Walsh, the former superintendent, and Clinton, the former medical director, of 10 counts of elder neglect and permitting bodily injury to five veterans, saying the evidence provided wasn't enough to prove their decisions caused the veterans' deaths at the center in Holyoke, Massachusetts, according to The Boston Globe.

The two men were indicted in September 2020 regarding a decision to combine two dementia units in March 2020. This decision caused residents with COVID to be placed with residents without the virus.

A total of 42 residents were put together. Some rooms with a capacity for four had six residents instead while a few others had been placed in the cafeteria.

Attorney General Maura Healey called the decision the "worst" and sought criminal indictments against Walsh and Clinton.

"There is insufficient reasonably trustworthy evidence that, had these two dementia units not been merged, the medical condition of any of these five veterans would have been materially different," Hampden Superior Court Edward McDonough Jr. wrote in his decision, according to the Associated Press. "Therefore, because the evidence does not support a finding of probable cause to believe Mr. Walsh or Mr. Clinton committed any crime, I must dismiss the indictments against both."

Walsh was found to have no previous health care experience before being appointed superintendent to the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, The Boston Globe reported. He was dismissed from his position, along with Clinton, when an investigation was launched, discovering errors that caused veterans to be at a higher risk for COVID.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Bennett Walsh, David Clinton, Dismissal, Neglect Charges
Former leaders for the Holyoke Soldiers' Home indicted in September 2020 after a deadly COVID outbreak at the center are dismissed of criminal neglect charges. Above, Lalain Reyeg administers a COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine to Army veteran William Craig at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital on September 24, 2021, in Hines, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Healey's office might appeal. "We are very disappointed in today's ruling, especially on behalf of the innocent victims and families harmed by the defendants' actions," Jillian Fennimore, a spokesperson for Healey said in a statement. "We are evaluating our legal options moving forward."

Clinton's attorney, John Lawler, said his now-retired client cared deeply for the veterans and feels "tremendous relief."

"I think Dr. Clinton feels vindicated by the well-reasoned, thoughtful decision by Judge McDonough," he said. "At the same time, his heart goes out to the veterans who suffered and died as a result of the COVID crisis."

A voicemail seeking comment was left with an attorney for Walsh.

At least 76 residents of the home died after testing positive for the virus in the spring of 2020, in one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in a long-term care facility in the nation.