AG Dismisses Charge in Corporate Rehab Murder Case


With a May 16 trial date looming, the California Attorney General's Office dismissed the single remaining count of the indictment against Mignon "Meg" Dean, clearing her of all criminal charges.

In July 2015, the California Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse brought a two-count indictment against three corporate entities and five individuals, including Hueston Hennigan client Mignon "Meg" Dean. The unprecedented indictment — never before had a corporation faced murder charges — arose from the 2010 death of Gary Benefield at a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Murrieta. The indictment charged the companies and four of the individuals with second-degree murder, and all of the defendants with dependent adult abuse.

Meg Dean was formerly a house manager and supervisor at the facility in Murrieta, but she had left for a new position with the company in San Diego a month before Mr. Benefield's death. She never met Mr. Benefield, and knew nothing about him or his medical issues until after his death. Nonetheless, Ms. Dean was indicted based on grand jury testimony by a witness about instructions he purportedly received by telephone from Ms. Dean. After the grand jury returned the indictment, the witness against Ms. Dean passed away.

Earlier this year, Hueston Hennigan and the joint defense team filed a series of motions seeking to set aside the indictment. Those arguments convinced the court, in a March 18, 2016, order, to entirely set aside the murder charges and to set aside the dependent adult abuse charges against one of the other defendants. However, the indictment still stood against Ms. Dean and she faced a felony charge with a seven-year maximum sentence, until Friday, April 29.

"Much of what we do as defense counsel is spend time and effort trying to convince a judge or a prosecutor to act in a way that will benefit our client. Here, we had a different task – our job was to frame the question for the prosecutor and then get out of his way while he reached the just result," said Brian Hennigan, lead counsel for Ms. Dean. "We can and do disagree with the prosecutor as to whether these criminal charges should have ever been pursued by the Attorney General's Office, but we congratulate the prosecutor and his office for doing the right thing and dismissing this remaining charge."