La. Prosecutors Dismiss 36 Counts Against Nursing Home Owners; Patients Died After Katrina

Wednesday, April 25th 2007, 8:01 pm
By: News On 6

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ The state on Wednesday dropped 36 counts of cruelty to the infirm against the owners of a nursing home where 35 people died in the flooding of Hurricane Katrina.

Salvador Mangano and his wife, Mabel, still face 28 counts of cruelty to the infirm and 35 counts of negligent homicide.

State prosecutors said the Manganos, who own St. Rita's nursing home in St. Bernard Parish, should have taken steps to evacuate patients before flood waters rose due to the Aug. 29, 2005 storm.

The couple had been indicted on a total of 64 counts of cruelty to the infirm, stemming from the suffering patients at St. Rita's went through after the storm.

However, prosecutors agreed to drop 35 of those counts _ each involving a dead patient _ after defense attorneys argued that the charge could not be applied to the dead. Another cruelty charge was dismissed because it could not be proven that the person in question was a resident of St. Rita's.

``This has been a very successful day for us,'' defense attorney James Cobb said.

Assistant Attorney General Burton Guidry called Wednesday's action ``procedural'' and designed to ``streamline the case.''

The couple's attorneys say that their hurricane plan _ keeping frail residents in place with food, water and generators rather than risking their lives by moving them _ was responsible. They also say nobody would have died had the levees held.

Each count of negligent homicide carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Each count of cruelty to the infirm carries up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.