HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Charges were dropped Thursday against three nurses who were charged with aggravated manslaughter after 12 patients died at the Broward County nursing home where they worked.
The administrator of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, however, is still expected to go to trial next month.
In court Thursday, the judge was prepared to moved forward with setting trial dates when the state said they had an announcement to make. They then proceeded to drop the charges for all three nurses.
The group was charged after 12 patients died at the nursing home after its air conditioning power went out amid sweltering heat following Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The storm knocked out a transformer linking the main air-conditioning unit to the power grid at the nursing home, sending temperatures soaring.
Twelve deaths at the center had been ruled homicides.
According to authorities, patients began dying at the rehabilitation center days after the devastating hurricane struck South Florida amid widespread power outages.
Investigators said the center did not evacuate patients as temperatures inside began rising, even though a fully functional hospital was across the street.
The home’s license was suspended days after the storm and it was later shuttered.
The defense said from the beginning there were issues with the case when Hollywood police brought forth the charges without the assistance of the State Attorney’s Office.
Nurse Althia Meggie appeared in court Thursday via Zoom, while another nurse, Tamika Miller, appeared in person.
“These three people -- I am delighted that they have been let go after three years of being under indictment,” her defense attorney said.
The third nurse, Sergio Colin, did not appear Thursday.
When it came time to find out why those charges were dropped, state prosecutor Chris Killoran refused to answer questions from Local 10 News reporter Roy Ramos.
Defense attorneys, however, said their clients are not to blame and that there were a number of opportunities by other personnel to evacuate the 115 people inside the rehabilitation center after the power went out and residents were left without air conditioning for three days.
“It was not called for by the medical doctors, but the fire department, by professionals who were in the building at the time and not one person stepped up and said, ‘We got to get out of here,’” James Cobb, the defense attorney for administrator Jorge Carballo, said.
While Carballo is still facing charges connected to the deaths, his attorney believes he is innocent.
“Because the prosecutor’s office has to have a scalp -- they have to have a scape goat. They have to blame somebody and they are blaming poor Jorge Carballo,” Cobb said.
When Ramos spoke to Carballo’s defense team, he asked if they had a message for the families of the victims. Their response was that many of the victims’ families were prepared to testify that they witnessed their client render aid and help their loved ones.
As for Carballo, his trial is set for Oct. 18 when jury selection is expected to begin.