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Posted Thursday, November 10, 2011

No charges issued against officials in charge of Fall River pool where woman drowned

A clerk magistrate in Fall River District Court has declined to issue charges against two Department of Conservation and Recreation managers who oversaw a city swimming pool where a woman died this summer.

Clerk Magistrate John O’Neill found no probable cause to issue the charges against Brian Shanahan and Jeff Carter, the clerk’s office said.

“He’s pleased with the outcome and would like to put the matter behind him,” said a lawyer for Shanahan, Thomas Drechsler of Boston. An attorney for Carter did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said he was disappointed and would continue to press the case.

“We believe strongly in the evidence we compiled in these two cases and we will continue to pursue these charges. We now have several options with respect to how we pursue these charges and we will consider which one of these options to choose over the next few days,” Sutter said in a statement.

His office declined to elaborate on the options available to prosecutors.

A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case, said prosecutors could appeal O’Neill’s decision to a judge in Fall River District Court.

The source said prosecutors could also seek a grand jury indictment.

Sutter said in early October he would seek to charge the two DCR employees with criminal endangerment for the chronic mismanagement of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Pool at Lafayette Park, where a woman drowned in late June and her corpse lay underwater in the murky deep end, undiscovered for two days.

Shanahan was a DCR regional director and Carter was a district manager for the South Coast. Both have resigned since the incident.

Fall River Mayor William A. Flanagan declined to comment on O’Neill’s decision this afternoon.

“I’ll have to review the decision to see what facts the magistrate relied upon,” he said in a brief phone interview.

In a 20-page report on the case in October, Sutter said there was no evidence that Marie Joseph’s death had resulted from intentional misconduct by public employees. But Sutter also said charges were warranted against DCR workers because the pool was reopened with Joseph’s corpse in the water.

He said the “acts and decisions made subsequent to Miss Joseph’s death concerning the opening of the pool on Monday, June 27, 2011, and Tuesday, June 28, 2011 ... constituted crimes.”

A DCR spokeswoman had no comment today.

Published Thursday, November 10, 2011 by The Boston Globe.


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