Whitmer could face criminal charges over COVID deaths, prosecutor says

Whitmer's office quickly denied Lucido's claims and called them politically motivated

A county prosecutor in Michigan told a local news station Monday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could possibly face charges for her early handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Lucido, the Macomb County prosecutor, told WXYZ.com that he is limited in his own investigation into nursing home deaths, but if it is revealed that there was "willful neglect of office" or "reckless endangerment of a person’s life," there could be criminal charges.

Lucido, a former Republican state senator, appealed to those in the state who may have lost loved ones to the virus who were in nursing homes to seek out information about the deaths. He said HIPPAA laws prevent his office from obtaining some patient information.

Whitmer’s office did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News.

Her office issued a statement to WXYZ and called Lucido’s comments "shameful political attacks based in neither fact or reality." Her office said that one of Lucido’s former Republican colleagues admitted that they "have not seen any evidence or testimony that says that a nursing home was forced to take someone against their will."

"The administration’s policies carefully tracked CDC guidance on nursing homes, and we prioritized testing of nursing home residents and staff to save lives," the statement read. "Early in the pandemic, the state acted swiftly to create a network of regional hubs with isolation units and adequate PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within a facility. In addition, we have offered 100 percent of nursing home resident priority access to the vaccine. Both the former head of AARP, as well as an independent U-M study, praised our work to save lives in nursing homes."

She told CNN on Sunday that her state "released an incredible amount of data. We have followed the federal requirements. Every step of the way."

Last week, Charlie LeDuff, an investigative journalist from the state, told Fox News that he is suing the state’s Democrat governor after trying to for months to get answers on COVID-19-related deaths tied to nursing homes.

"You can’t get them. I’ve been asking for months," he said. 

Dana Nessel, the state’s attorney general, is reportedly looking into the state’s "nursing home policies," according to ClickonDetroit.com.

Republican state legislators have called for investigations into the governor’s handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during the early days of the pandemic.

Michigan State Sen. Jim Runestad spearheaded the push.

"Gov. Whitmer’s regional hub policy placed patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities and may have exacerbated the death toll in those facilities," Runestad said in a February statement.

The calls to investigate Whitmer come as embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has faced calls for impeachment a mounting scandal over his state's handling of nursing home deaths compounded by sexual harassment allegations.

Republicans also want a probe into the state's separation agreement for Robert Gordon, the former director of the Department of Health and Human Services Director, according to the Detroit News. Gordon also signed a confidentiality agreement "in the interest of protecting deliberations among government officials," according to the deal obtained via an open-records request by the News.

Gordon resigned in January and is set to receive a $155,506 payout.

Back in December, Gordon said he did not disagree with critics questioning the common sense of allowing positive patients to return to homes where they are isolated until they fully recover, but the "profoundly imperfect" strategy is "functioning reasonably well."

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He also said allegations that Michigan forced nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients from hospitals in the spring are "false." The department in April quickly heard concerns about a provision in a Whitmer order and did not implement it, he said.

Fox News' Evie Fordham, Charles Creitz, Houston Keene and the Associated Press contributed to this report