AAC Holdings, Leaders Spared Murder Charges in Patient Death

Updated on
  • California judge lets dependent-adult abuse charges proceed
  • Patient died at substance abuse clinic on day he was admitted

AAC Holdings Inc. rose as much as 21 percent after a judge ruled that the chain of drug and alcohol treatment clinics and its executives won’t face murder charges over the death of a patient in California.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Elaine M. Kiefer threw out second-degree murder charges that were filed last year against the company and employees including Jerrod Menz, the former president of AAC who founded unit ABTTC Inc. The company and some employees, including Menz, still face dependent-adult abuse charges over the death of a 53-year-old man on the day in 2010 that he was admitted to the clinic.

Kiefer said prosecutors presented “insufficient evidence” to support murder charges based on claims that patient Gary Benefield was given drugs without a prescription by clinic staffers.

“There is no evidence that any of the defendants knew that their acts of giving the medications to Benefield were dangerous to the extent they risked killing him, and so no evidence that they consciously disregarded that risk to Benefield’s life,” she wrote in a decision disclosed Friday. A copy of the ruling was provided by defense lawyers and couldn’t immediately be confirmed in court records.

AAC, based in Brentwood, Tennessee, said in July, when the charges were filed, that the patient was found dead of natural causes in his room the morning after he checked in to one of the company’s facilities. AAC settled a civil case stemming from the death in 2014 with no admission of liability, according to company’s July statement.

AAC spokeswoman Cynthia Johnson had no immediate comment on the ruling.

Joel Samuels, a state prosecutor, said he couldn’t comment and a press representative for the attorney general’s office didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Lawyers for the individual defendants declined to comment.

AAC closed at $19.88, up 11 percent, in New York trading.

The case is California v. McCausland, SWF1501351, California Superior Court, Riverside County.