Couple Charged in Katrina Nursing Home Deaths Wants Prosecutor Replaced

A couple charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of 35 nursing home residents after Hurricane Katrina said Monday that they want the attorney general barred from prosecuting the case, citing a conflict of interest.

Defense counsel for Salvador and Mabel Mangano, owners of St. Rita's nursing home, are expected to use evidence of alleged negligence against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Louisiana and the government of St. Bernard Parish at trial.

But Attorney General Charles Foti also has filed a $200 billion claim against the Corps, contending faulty levees caused floods that inundated the New Orleans area, including St. Bernard Parish.

The Manganos' attorney asked the state judge to make Foti's federal court actions regarding flooding from Katrina part of the their case.

Because of alleged government negligence, including levees that failed after Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, the Manganos could not have known about the potential for flooding in advance, the defense argues.

A gag order prevents Foti from talking about the case. District Judge Jerome Winsberg said he will rule Aug. 1.

Also Monday, the state dropped two counts of cruelty to the infirm, leaving the Manganos facing 24 counts of cruelty to the infirm and 35 counts of negligent homicide.

This was the second time in recent weeks that defense attorneys attacked Foti's handling of a case.

Last week, Dr. Anna Pou — the doctor arrested in the deaths of four patients at a New Orleans hospital after Katrina — filed suit accusing Foti of using her arrest to fuel his re-election bid.

The lawsuit also seeks to force the state to provide a legal defense for Pou against lawsuits filed by families of three of the patients.