The Attorney General’s office announced the dismissal of pending criminal charges associated with the Flint water crisis on Thursday, and said it will instead be starting from square one to conduct an expanded investigation.
Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who is taking the lead on the criminal cases, and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement that after assuming responsibility of the case, the team of investigators and prosecutors had “immediate and grave concerns” because evidence did not appear to have been fully reviewed.
“Legitimate criminal prosecutions require complete investigations," the statement reads. “Contrary to accepted standards of criminal investigation and prosecution, all available evidence was not pursued. Instead, the OSC entered into agreements that gave private law firms — representing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Treasury, and the Executive Office of former Gov. Rick Snyder — a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement."
While Hammoud’s team attempted to salvage the progress that had already been made in the investigation, it concluded that starting over would be the most efficient way to address the “flawed foundation” it started on:
“We cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation,” the statement reads. “Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical, and ethical investigation."
However, this doesn’t mean that her team cannot refile charges against people suspected to have criminal responsibility. The statement indicates that this would indeed be a possibility:
“Our team has already identified additional individuals of interest and new information relevant to the Flint Water Crisis. These investigative leads will be aggressively pursued. … It is important to note that this voluntary dismissal by our team is not a determination of any defendant’s criminal responsibility. We are not precluded from refiling charges against the defendants listed below or adding new charges and additional defendants.”
At this time, charges will be dismissed for eight remaining defendants, including two Flint emergency managers, health department officials, and past and present employees of the City of Flint and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Among those charged was Nick Lyon, the former director of the Department of Health and Human Services, who was facing an involuntary manslaughter charge due to his failure to inform the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.
Hammoud and Worthy’s statement indicated that the team “will evaluate criminal culpability for all Legionnaires deaths that occurred after the switch to the Flint River,” something that was never completed by the OSC.
The eight individuals whose charges are being dismissed were the remaining cases to be addressed of a total of 15 people who were charged during former Attorney General Bill Schuette’s time in office. The other seven charged had already pleaded no contest to their misdemeanors.
Hammoud will be holding a “community conversation” on Friday in Flint to shed light on the recent decision to dismiss the charges.
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