Flint water crisis: Michigan judge charges 7

“Simply put, there are no valid charges,” said Judge Elizabeth Kelly.

FLINT, Mich. – A Michigan judge on Tuesday dismissed charges against seven people in the Flint water scandal, including two former state health officials blamed for deaths from Legionnaires’ disease.

Judge Elizabeth Kelly took action three months after the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled that another judge was serving as One-person grand jury had no authority to bring charges.

Kelly declined efforts of the prosecutor simply sending the cases to the Flint District Court and converting them to criminal charges, the typical way of filing felony charges in Michigan.

“Simply put, there are no valid charges,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s decision does not affect former Gov. Rick Snyder. That’s just because he was charged with misdemeanor offenses and his case is being dealt with by a judge in another Flint court. But he, too, was indicted in a trial overturned by the Supreme Court.

In 2014, Flint managers appointed by Snyder took the city out of a regional water system and began using the Flint River to save money while a new pipeline to Lake Huron was being built. But the river water has not been treated to reduce its caustic properties. Lead broke out of old pipes and contaminated the system for more than a year.

Separately, the water has been blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which typically spreads through heating and cooling systems.

Former state health director Nick Lyon and former chief medical executive Eden Wells have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in nine Legionnaire-related deaths. They were blamed for not giving the Flint area timely warning of the eruption.

Lyon attorneys praised Kelly’s decision and urged the attorney general’s office to drop a “misguided prosecution.”

“This abuse of the criminal justice system has to stop,” said Chip Chamberlain and Ron DeWaard. “Misleading statements about what Director Lyon did or did not do do nothing to promote constructive public dialogue and do not constitute justice for anyone.”

An email was sent to the prosecutor’s office for comment.

Alongside Lyon and Wells, the charges against Snyder’s longtime fixer in the state government, Rich Baird, were dismissed. former senior advisor Jarrod Agen; former Flint managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; and Nancy Peeler, a health department manager.

Michigan’s six-year statute of limitations could pose a problem in some cases if the attorney general’s office wants to recharge. However, the deadline would be longer for charges against Lyon and Wells.

Prosecutors in Michigan typically file felony charges in the district court after a police investigation. The use of a single-judge grand jury was extremely rare and was used primarily in Detroit and Flint to protect witnesses, particularly in violent crime cases, who could testify in private.

Prosecutors Fadwa Hammoud and Kym Worthy chose this route in the Flint water investigation to secretly hear evidence and bring charges against Snyder and others.

But the state Supreme Court said Michigan law is clear: A single-judge grand jury cannot bring indictments. The process had apparently never been challenged.

Chief Justice Bridget McCormack called it a “Star Chamber comeback,” a derogatory reference to an oppressive, closed-off style of justice in 17th-century England.

Trying to hold people criminally responsible for Flint’s lead-in-water disaster has taken years and achieved little.

Before leaving office in 2019, then-Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, had promised to put people in prison. But the results varied: seven people pleaded no contest to offenses that were eventually removed from their files.

After Dana Nessel, a Democrat, was elected, she sacked Special Counsel Todd Flood and put Hammoud and Worthy, the respected Wayne County Attorney in charge, in charge.

It is undisputed that lead affects the brain and nervous system, especially in children. Experts have not identified a safe level of lead in children.

Regardless, the state agreed to pay $600 million as part of a $626 million settlement with Flint residents and property owners harmed by lead-laden water. Most of the money goes to children.

Flint returned to a southeastern Michigan water system in 2015. As of last December, around 10,100 lead or steel water pipes in households had been replaced.

https://www.kvue.com/article/news/nation-world/flint-water-charges/507-6bffa12b-cb3b-43c8-a10c-032c9fd97362 Flint water crisis: Michigan judge charges 7

Laura Coffey

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