Flint water prosecutors try to resurrect charges against former officials

After a judge dismissed charges against those linked to the scandal, prosecutors aim to appeal

Oct 25, 2022 at 3:31 pm
click to enlarge Flint Water Plant in Flint. - Shutterstock.com
Flint Water Plant in Flint.

Prosecutors in the Flint water crisis announced Tuesday that they will appeal a judge’s dismissal of felony charges against seven people involved in the Flint water scandal.

Genesee Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Kelly tossed the charges against the officials on Oct. 4, saying the indictments were “invalid” after a Michigan Supreme Court ruled in June that prosecutors incorrectly used a one-person grand jury.

The charges were dropped against Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon; former MDHHS employee Nancy Peeler; former MDHHS medical executive Eden Wells; Jarrod Agen and Richard Baird, who were top aides for former Gov. Rick Snyder; and former Flint emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley.

The prosecution team said it’s appealing because the Michigan Supreme Court did not abolish the one-person grand jury, “but instead more specifically defined the process, leaving a path for the prosecution to pursue charges against the defendants.”

The prosecutors argue they properly used the grand jury and will follow the process defined by the court.

“The residents of Flint have waited years for their day in court,” the prosecutors said in a statement. “The court proceedings up to this point have been a challenge to the process, not the merits of the case. The public deserves to hear the evidence against these defendants. Remanding these cases for preliminary exam is the next logical step in the legal process based on the ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court.”

In 2021, the group was charged without a preliminary examination by Genesee County Circuit Judge David Newblatt. The Michigan Supreme Court said a judge cannot act as a one-man grand jury.

Dana Nessel took over the investigation once she was elected attorney general, firing the lead prosecutors and investigators, dropping charges that had already been filed, and relaunching the inquiry with a new team. Her predecessor Bill Schuette had filed 15 criminal charges against state and city of Flint officials.

The city of Flint, while under state emergency management, switched its drinking water supply to the Flint River to save money in 2014. The decision created one of the nation’s worst public health disasters in decades, contaminating drinking water with dangerous levels of lead.

State officials ignored signs of serious health hazards in the predominantly Black city and failed to implement corrosion-control treatments, causing lead, iron, and rust to leach from aging pipes into the water supply.

At least 12 deaths have been tied to the water crisis.

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