Tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. A new book looks back at a nursing home tragedy that will forever be tied to that horrific natural disaster.
“Watered-Down Truth: A Flood of Lies That was More Deadly Than Hurricane Katrina,” dredges up the story of St. Rita’s nursing home like wreckage from a bayou swamp. Owners Sal and Mabel Mangano, as you may remember, were charged with the deaths of 35 residents who drowned in the wake of the Aug. 29, 2005, storm.
The author of the self-published book is attorney Robert Abrams, who clearly was fascinated by the case and angered by the treatment of the Manganos by the media and by then-Louisiana Attorney General, Charles C. Foti, Jr.
The story is pure drama—starting with the flooding of New Orleans, moving to the arrests of the Manganos and diving into the subsequent battles waged by the prosecution and defense to prove their cases. It closes with play-by-play action of the trial.
There is no question on whose side the author stands. Abrams ridicules the prosecutor, Foti, as incompetent and maintains that Foti was capitalizing on the case to elevate his political stature.
Abrams also believes that the media failed in its role as objective observers. Early on, it depicted the Manganos as guilty by virtue of their profession, he argues. Abrams sets the scene at the beginning of the book as a veritable media feeding frenzy, with news outlets quick to cast judgment on the Manganos.
But the Manganos clearly got their day in court—and it’s clear the author takes delight in this. Their lawyers, led by James Cobb, made a successful case that government—not the Manganos—were to blame in the deaths of the their residents. In the end, the Manganos were found “not guilty” on all charges.
While the book is an indictment of the actions of Foti and the media, it also offers a well documented explanation of how the defense won. It provides chapter-by-chapter evidence of mistakes Abrams believes were made by the prosecution, as well as government on the local, state and national levels. Abrams explains how St. Bernard Parish failed to issue an evacuation order, and holds that government was negligent in its responsibility to strengthen the levees.
Because of the wealth of media material Abrams cites, the book will serve as an important historical archive. Abrams presents excerpts from newspaper reports, documents and television interviews, as well as compelling testimony straight from trial transcripts.
This book offers a look at the case like you haven’t seen it before. If you are looking for a compelling analysis of the Mangano ordeal as well as a juicy page-turner, this one is for you.
For more information about “Watered-Down Truth,” including how to purchase it, go to http://www.watereddowntruth.com.