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Nurses to face charges in Florida nursing home deaths

Police have been investigating the deaths for nearly two years but no charges have been filed.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Arrests are expected Monday in the case of a Florida nursing home where 12 elderly patients died after it lost power during a 2017 hurricane, according to defense attorneys.

Lawrence Hashish says his client is one of three nurses and an administrator being charged. He said they don't yet know what the charges are, but that it will likely be some form of manslaughter.

Police have been investigating the deaths for nearly two years but no charges have been filed. A voice message and email left for Hollywood Police were not immediately returned Sunday.

Hashish said his client and the other nurses are merely scapegoats.

"The real crime is that the state is looking to blame selfless caregivers and the evidence will show that no crime was committed," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday.

His co-counsel, Ilham Soffan, also confirmed to the AP that her client was turning herself in Monday. The attorneys said they don't have any further details about the charges and planned to hammer out a bond agreement before a hearing Monday morning.

RELATED: The Latest: 14th death from nursing home hurricane blackout

Patients began dying at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills days after the hurricane. Investigators say the center did not evacuate patients as temperatures inside rose, even though a fully functional hospital was across the street. The home's license was suspended days after the storm and it later shuttered.

Paramedic Craig Wohlitka and other paramedics from Hollywood Fire-Rescue testified last year that he was haunted by the deaths of 12 patients. Fire Lt. Amy Parrinello said one of the female victims had a temperature of 107.5 degrees (42 Celsius), the highest she had ever seen in his 12-year career. Later that morning, another patient topped that with a temperature that was so high it couldn't be measured, she said.

Wohlitka said that after the man's death, the crew decided to start checking other patients who hadn't been reported as ill. He said they saw a woman in a room who appeared sick, but a home employee said they had just checked her and she was fine.

RELATED: Dozens of assisted living facilities haven't met emergency power mandate

RELATED: Nursing home employee accused of stealing more than $20K in property from residents

The case made national headlines and sparked political backlash. Months after the deaths, lawmakers passed a bill requiring backup power sources in Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The legislation requires the facilities to have a generator capable of keeping nursing homes and assisted living facilities at 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) or lower for at least four days.

Hashish declined to give his client's name, but said she was working as a full-time nurse at another facility and was just picking up a shift that day.

"They called her. They said, 'can you come and help? We're short-handed,' and look what she walked into," he said.

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