Flint Water crisis charges against former Republican governor Rick Snyder dismissed
- US News
- December 10, 2022
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FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A judge dismissed indictments against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in the Flint water crisis, months after the state Supreme Court said charges were returned by a one-person grand jury , are invalid.
Snyder, a Republican who left office in 2019, was charged with two counts of willful dereliction of duty. He was the first person in state history to be charged with alleged crimes related to serving as governor.
Snyder is also the eighth person to dump a Flint waterfall following the Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion in June.
Genesee County Judge F. Kay Behm signed the order Wednesday, a day after the US Senate approved her nomination to serve as a federal judge in eastern Michigan.
“The charges against (Snyder) have not been properly brought and must be dismissed at this time,” Behm wrote, sending the case to a lower court weeks after hearing arguments for the final step.
In response, prosecutors at the Democrat-led attorney general’s office said they would add the finding to other appeals. “Up to this point, decisions have only been made on the merits, not on the merits,” prosecutors said.
Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was the first person in state history to be charged with alleged crimes related to serving as governor.
“We are confident that the evidence clearly supports the charges against Rick Snyder,” they added, “and we will not stop until we have exhausted every possible legal avenue to ensure justice for the people of Flint.”
Prosecutors could try to retry the case with new charges, but any attempt could face a six-year statute of limitations.
“That would be one of our many arguments,” Snyder attorney Brian Lennon told The Associated Press. “This is a victory and hopefully the end of this politically motivated prosecution.”
Only one case remains pending in the water scandal, which not only exposed children to toxic lead but was also blamed for deaths linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Activists who believe crimes have been committed are frustrated that no one has been jailed.
The attorney general’s office has been desperate to keep the cases alive, but has so far lost at every turn. Prosecutors have argued that the charges could simply be commuted to ordinary criminal charges in district courts, but Behm and another judge have rejected that approach.
Flint’s water became contaminated with lead after Snyder-appointed city managers began using the Flint River in 2014 to save money while a new pipeline to Lake Huron was built. The water was not treated to reduce its corrosive properties, which resulted in lead breaking off old pipes and contaminating the system for more than a year.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission said it was the result of systemic racism and doubted the water changes and dismissal of grievances in the black-majority city took place in a white, affluent community.
Flint residents have complained about the smell, taste, and appearance of the water, raised health concerns, and reported skin rashes, hair loss, and other problems. Snyder only acknowledged lead was a problem 17 months after the fall 2015 water change when he vowed to take action.
He agreed that the state government had screwed up the water switch, particularly regulators who didn’t need certain treatments. But his defense team denies that Snyder’s conduct reached the level of a felony.
Prosecutors in Michigan typically file charges in a county court after a police investigation. A one-judge grand jury was rare and used primarily in Detroit and Flint to protect witnesses who could testify privately about violent crimes.
Prosecutors working with Wayne County Attorney Kym Worthy chose this path in the Flint Water saga to secretly hear evidence and bring charges against Snyder and others.
But the state Supreme Court unanimously said a single-judge grand jury could not bring indictments. The process had apparently never been challenged.
Judge Elizabeth Kelly in October dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against seven people, including two senior health officials in the Snyder government, Nick Lyon and Eden Wells, who had been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of nine Legionnaires.
The Attorney General’s Office, despite the Supreme Court’s findings, is trying to persuade the Court of Appeals to step in and somehow overturn the decision.
Howard Croft, a former Flint public works officer, still has misdemeanor pending with another judge.