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Two admit to ‘sufficient facts’ related to Fall River pool death

Fall River detectives investigated the scene last year at the Fall River pool where Marie Joseph, 36, drowned last year.

George Rizer for the Boston Globe/File 2011

Fall River detectives investigated the scene last year at the Fall River pool where Marie Joseph, 36, drowned last year.

FALL RIVER -- Two former state workers were sentenced today to a year of probation after admitting that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict them of reckless endangerment of a child in their mismanagement of a pool in Fall River where a woman drowned last year.

Candella Matta/AP

Marie Joseph drowned in the poll and her body remained unnoticed for two days.

Brian Shanahan, the former regional director for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Jeff Carter,a former DCR district manager, appeared in Fall River District Court with their attorneys, where they admitted to sufficient facts in the case.

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Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg had asked Judge Beverly J. Cannone to find both men guilty and place them on probation for two years.

But Cannone, accepting their admissions, placed them both on unsupervised probation for one year and continued the case without a finding, which means if both men are not convicted of any new crimes during that time, the reckless endangerment charges will be permanently dropped.

However, if they face new criminal charges, today’s case could be reactivated and be treated as a criminal conviction against them and they could face up to two years imprisonment.

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“Although the sentences which the court pronounced were not exactly what we requested, nevertheless it is important to note that the defendants did admit their wrongdoing and the case has been resolved quickly. I think both the admissions and the quick resolution are positive for the community going forward,” Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said in a statement.

Last October, an investigation by Sutter concluded that Marie Joseph drowned June 26 in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Pool in Lafayette Park after a series of bad decisions left the water in the pool opaque.

Shanahan and Carter were not charged with directly causing the death of Joseph, a 36-year-old Haitian immigrant who could not swim. But they were charged with reckless endangerment of a child because they allowed the shallow end of the pool to open for both days while Joseph’s body lay, undiscovered, in the deep end.

Deborah Gutter, who identified herself as a close friend of Joseph, attended the court hearing and afterwards expressed shock at the way the prosecution was resolved.

“She was a wonderful woman and this didn’t need to happen,’’ Gutter told reporters. “I’m furious. … She’s gone and no one can bring her back. Someone should pay for that.’’

After the hearing, their attorneys said outside court that the men wanted to end the criminal case as quickly as possible. Neither defendant has a prior criminal record, and it could have taken a year or more to resolve the case if they had decided to fight the charge, the attorneys said.

“Mr. Carter has taken responsibility,’’ his attorney, Joseph Silvia, said. “He has an unblemished employment record. He is not an individual who is going to appear back in court.’’

Shanahan’s attorney, Thomas Drechsler, said his client is 60 years old, is an Army veteran, holds a master’s in public administration, has been married for 30 years and has two grown children.

“This man has accomplished a lot, and he is here attempting to put this matter behind him,’’ Drechsler said.

According to the report by Sutter, DCR employees mismanaged the water quality in the pool, allegedly making it impossible for Joseph to see how deep the water was -- it was 12 feet deep where she drowned. Prosecutors said the cloudy condition of the water also made it impossible for lifeguards to see her body underneath the water.

“A series of poor decisions, with errors compounding errors, a disregard for regulatory requirements, and a disregard for the proper standard for operating the pool pervaded multiple levels of DCR supervision and management,” Sutter’s office concluded last year.

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