[JURIST] Salvador and Mabel Mangano pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 35 charges of negligent homicide and 64 charges of cruelty to the infirm for their alleged refusal in August 2005 to evacuate the residents of St. Rita's Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish after a mandatory evacuation order was issued in response to Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Thirty-five residents drowned in the flood water [NYT report; victim list, PDF] that overtook the one-story nursing home owned by the Manganos in less than 20 minutes. In their defense, the Manganos have blamed their disregard of the evacuation order on the failure of state and federal government to adequately prepare the area for flooding, as well as concern over the potential dangers to residents' health that would have been caused by moving them. State District Judge Jerome Winsberg has ordered the Manganos, the prosecution and witnesses to refrain from discussing the case in public and with the media.
The Manganos, who are free on bail, were originally charged [JURIST report] a year ago, but were not indicted [JURIST report] until last week because extensive damage prevented a grand jury from convening in St. Bernard's Parish until recently. The Manganos face at least 30 lawsuits filed against them for their actions regarding the failed evacuation, and have sued a number of local and state officials [JURIST report], arguing that the government should share the liability. AP has more.