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Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Administrators Defend Criminal Charges in Coronavirus Outbreak Case

— August 26, 2021

Attorneys for the two former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home administrators have said their clients are being scapegoated.

Two former officials from the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Western Massachusetts appeared in court to defend criminal charges that their misconduct led to 80 veterans dying from coronavirus.

According to The Associated Press, attorneys for former facility Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director Dr. David Clinton argued a number of motions to dismiss charges against the two men.

In court, Walsh and Clinton’s lawyers suggested that the state had not met its burden of proof in indicting their clients on 10 counts each, including abuse, neglect, and/or mistreatment of an elderly or disabled person(s).

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

Veteran cemetery
Veteran cemetery; image courtesy of jkmoller11 via Pixabay,

However, prosecutors claim that both Walsh and Clinton made poor decisions, leading them to place coronavirus-positive residents not the same unit as persons who were either asymptomatic or had tested negative.

The two men are also facing a civil lawsuit atop the criminal charges.

In the civil complaint, family members of deceased veterans, as well as recovered soldiers, say that Clinton and Walsh mismanaged the facility amidst the pandemic—mixing symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, and forcing employees who may have been sick to continue coming into work.

“Walsh made an announcement over the loudspeaker … [and] stated, ‘We do want to let you know that the staff that have been calling in will be penalized and there will be disciplinary action,’” assert the lawsuit, first filed in March 2021. “Mr. Walsh also made an announcement listing the names of staff members who were being written up for calling in sick.”

Walsh and Clinton have denied all wrongdoing, and say they are being unfairly punished for a pandemic outside everyone’s control.

John Lawler, an attorney representing Clinton in the civil lawsuit, said his client is a “wonderful, caring person who dedicated his professional life to taking care of the medical needs of thousands of people in his community to include the veterans who lived in the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home during the period when he worked there.”

Clinton further “cared deeply for the veterans who lived at the Home and for his fellow employees who worked with him providing services to these veterans.”

Nonetheless, both Walsh and Clinton claim they have been made scapegoats.

Another of Walsh’s lawyers said that his client had actually saved lives by alerting Massachusetts officials to the crisis early on, allowing the state to mobilize its National Guard reserves in response.


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