FLINT, MICH. – A year after unprecedented charges against a former Michigan governor, the prosecution of Rick Snyder and eight others by Flint Water is moving slowly, bogged down by disputes over millions of documents and even disputes. whether certain cases are submitted to the appropriate court.
Snyder, a Republican, was charged with knowingly ignoring duty arising from the 2014-15 decision to divert Flint’s water supply to the Flint River without treatment to reduce the corrosive impact on the Flint Rivers. Old urban pipeline. Lead contaminates the system, a disastrous outcome for the majority Black community.
Snyder’s name is the largest of the indictments announced by the attorney general’s office in January 2021, though he is facing misdemeanor charges while other senior members from his administration are facing misdemeanor charges. deal with more serious allegations.
Indeed, former Michigan chief medical officer Nick Lyon was charged with involuntary manslaughter, in connection with nine deaths in the Flint area attributed to Legionnaires’ illness during the water transfer. Some experts have pointed to bacteria in river water for outbreaks.
Lyon and his attorneys returned to court Wednesday to argue that he does not owe a “personal obligation” to each citizen, under Michigan law, and that his case should be dismissed.
“Mr. Lyon is a public servant, not a medical professional, and numerous qualified individuals at the state and local level are investigating and responding to the outbreak at his direction. “, the lawyer said in the application to the court.
Prosecutors insist Lyon could be held criminally responsible because he knew about the rise in Legionnaires cases long before it was made public, and he could do more. Dr. Eden Wells, who served as Michigan’s chief medical officer, also faces similar charges.
A statewide group representing local health departments is siding with Lyon, although Judge Elizabeth Kelly declined a request to add their voices to the case.
“Putting criminal responsibility on officials” would discourage those serving in government, the group said, from making the public safer.
Snyder, who led the state for eight years through 2019, is the first current or former Michigan governor to be charged in connection with their time in office. He admits that the Flint water switch, pushed by city managers he appoints, and the subsequent lead contamination was a tragedy, but he denies any personal wrongdoing.
Snyder’s legal team attacked the case on multiple fronts, starting with location. Defense attorneys argued that he could not be charged in Flint court with neglect of duty when Snyder worked miles away in Ingham County. That argument has so far failed, although an appeal is pending.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have lost key court decisions regarding documents that were seized from state offices during the investigation. The search warrant appears to have wiped out records including confidential communications involving lawyers in the Snyder administration, including water problems in Flint and even the bankruptcy case in Detroit.
Kelly recently ordered the attorney general’s office to set up an independent team to review filings that may violate attorney-client privilege. Assistant Attorney General Christopher Kessel warned that it could cost $48 million and take a few years.