MM Curator summary
[MM Curator Summary]: The case centers arounds decisions around evacuating residents during Huricane Ida.
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Dean arrested in Tangipahoa Parish after evacuating 800+ nursing home residents to warehouse
The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has arrested notorious nursing home magnate Bob Dean on counts of cruelty to persons with infirmities and other charges, nearly a year after Dean bungled the evacuation of hundreds of seniors ahead of Hurricane Ida last August.
Prosecutors arrested Dean after he turned himself in Wednesday on eight felony counts of cruelty to persons with infirmities, five felony counts of Medicaid fraud and two felony counts of obstruction of justice. Dean was booked in the Tangipahoa Parish Prison after a judge set a $350,000 bail, according to court filings and his lawyer.
The Wednesday arrest was the cap on a 10-month long criminal investigation into Dean’s actions during Ida last year. Before the storm struck, Dean moved more than 800 elderly and frail residents from his seven nursing homes to a Tangipahoa Parish warehouse, which state inspectors shut down after observing residents calling for help that never came as trash piled up and air conditioning went out. Dean kicked inspectors off-site after the storm.
More than a dozen residents died after that evacuation, though coroners have classified only five as “storm-related.“ Shortly after, the AG’s office opened its probe, and families of nursing home residents filed a slew of lawsuits against Dean.
The state also shuttered Dean’s nursing homes, while federal officials revoked his ability to receive money through Medicaid. Dean has filed appeals on both of those actions.
Dean “refused to move his residents out of the warehouse following Hurricane Ida, billed Medicaid for dates his residents were not receiving proper care and engaged in conduct intended to intimidate or obstruct public health officials and law enforcement,” the AG’s office said in a statement.
Dean’s bond requires mental health evaluation, ankle monitor
Dean’s attorney, John McLindon, said Wednesday that the Attorney General’s office contacted him earlier this week about the arrest and that Dean and his wife flew back to Louisiana on Tuesday. Dean moved to Georgia last year.
McLindon said that Dean’s actions during the evacuation were not criminal. He said Dean was out of the state when Hurricane Ida hit, and that flights heading back to Louisiana were canceled.
“When you hear the charge cruelty to the infirm — understand, Bob Dean was not there,” McLindon said. “He was out of state desperately trying to get back.”
McLindon asked Tangipahoa District Judge Jeff Johnson for permission for Dean to leave Louisiana and travel back to Georgia once he meets bail obligations, and that Johnson agreed. Dean was expected to bond out Wednesday afternoon.
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Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Jimmy Travis said Dean’s $350,000 bond includes conditions that he must wear an ankle monitor, surrender his passports and firearms and receive a mental health evaluation. Travis said Dean was also ordered not to leave Georgia except for medical appointments and to return to Louisiana for court. All of Dean’s court appearances must also be in-person, unless he’s confined to a medical facility.
McLindon said Dean is facing significant health problems; in other lawsuits Dean is facing, his attorneys have said he has dementia and other memory problems. Those health problems could “absolutely” become part of Dean’s criminal defense, McLindon said.
Dean is also facing criminal counts in other states. After an incident earlier this year where Dean shot his thumb off, police in Georgia charged him with reckless conduct, firing a weapon near a public road and firing a weapon on another person’s property. Dean is also under a criminal investigation in Oregon after cattle from his ranch had to be rescued from a snowstorm.
‘Cruelty to infirm’ carries stiff penalties
In Louisiana, “cruelty to the infirmed” counts can be even more serious than negligent homicide. If Dean were convicted on any of those eight counts, he could face up to 10 years in prison for each, five years longer than the maximum penalty for negligent homicide.
It’s rare for nursing home owners to face criminal charges, said attorney Jim Cobb, who represented the owners of St. Rita’s Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish after 35 of their residents drowned in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. A jury acquitted them in 2007 on dozens of counts of negligent homicide and cruelty to the infirm.
Cobb said that despite his victory in the St. Rita’s case, jurors are often predisposed to side with the elderly in cruelty cases. And he said the videos and photos of Dean’s residents crying out for help during the Hurricane Ida evacuation are powerful evidence against him.
Dean could try to make the case that some of his nursing homes were under mandatory evacuation orders and that staff did the best they could, Cobb said. Dean owned Maison DeVille and South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab in parishes that issued such mandatory orders for the storm.
Meanwhile, prosecutors will need to try to prove that Dean’s mistreatment of his nursing home residents was intentional, he said.
Dean’s mental state could also have major bearing over the outcome of the case, Cobb said. He said the courts will try to determine whether Dean has diminished mental capacity and whether he’s capable of helping his lawyers to defend himself.
“He may pull a Junior on ‘The Sopranos’ and pretend he’s demented while avoiding criminal prosecution,” Cobb said.