Prosecutors dropped manslaughter charges Thursday against three defendants stemming from the post-hurricane deaths of 12 nursing home residents in Hollywood, FL.
The defendants, former employees at the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, agreed to testify against a fourth defendant, Jorge Carballo, the former chief administrator of the facility, according to media reports. They were all charged with manslaughter.
All four were accused of failing to properly care for residents after Hurricane Irma knocked out air conditioning for three days in September 2017, as temperatures in the building reached triple digits. The deceased were between 57 and 99 years old and died of heat stroke.
By December 2018, the Florida governor suspended and then revoked the facility’s license. A two-year investigation led to charges against the staff members, and attorneys for the four tried to get the charges dismissed in 2020.
Wednesday, a lawyer for the chief administrator accused the prosecutors and state’s attorney of admitting to not having a case before Wednesday’s dismissal, implying that the deal for the three to testify against his client was acting in bad faith.
The defendants’ team sent a letter recounting the conversation to the state’s attorney, who responded in a letter of his own that prosecutors do believe they have enough evidence to convict Carballo.
“I’ve never seen a more malicious, misguided prosecution in my life,” James Cobb, one of the attorneys for the remaining defendant, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Lawyers for the defendants had witnesses to say the conditions weren’t as bad as the public was led to believe and that staff was doing its best. They say Carballo didn’t have the authority to evacuate because he isn’t a medical doctor.
Jury selection in Carballo’s case is scheduled to begin on Oct. 18.