Supreme Court overturns ‘invalid’ Flint water crisis charges against Snyder and 8 others ⋆ Michigan Advance

Update, 1:52 PM, 6/28/22 with statement from Snyder’s legal team

Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a judge lacks the power in 2021 to indict former GOP Governor Rick Snyder, Snyder’s former chief health officer and seven others on charges related to the water crisis in Flint.

The Michigan legislature once changed laws to authorize judges to issue indictments, but removed that authority several years later in 1951, according to the court’s unanimous decision. Decision 6-0.

Snyder had been charged with two counts of willful dereliction of duty in January 2021, to which he pleaded not guilty.

In a scathing statement Tuesday, Snyder’s legal team applauded the court’s new ruling while saying Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office “demonstrably mishandled these cases from the start.”

“These lawsuits against Governor Snyder and the other defendants were never intended to seek justice for the citizens of Flint,” the statement said. “Instead, Attorney General Nessel and his political agent, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, staged a self-serving, vindictive, wasteful and politically motivated prosecution.”

Snyder’s legal team said it would act immediately to dismiss all charges against Snyder based on Tuesday’s ruling.*

It has been eight years since Flint’s water source was transferred to the Flint River while under emergency management under Snyder’s administration. The switch was made without the application of corrosion inhibitors.

The result was widespread lead contamination in the predominantly black city’s drinking water, a major outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, and long-term consequences for thousands of children exposed to lead in water.

Tuesday’s decision is a significant defeat for Nessel’s office. The Democrat decided years ago to set up a new team following the troubled investigation led by her predecessor, Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, and properly investigate whether crimes were committed in the worst of the crisis.

“The prosecution team is reviewing the court opinion,” Nessel spokeswoman Lynsey Mukomel said. Advance.

Residents held a rally bringing attention to Flint’s water crisis five years ago | Nick Manes

At the request of Nessel’s office, the cases against Snyder and many others involved were heard by a “one-man grand jury”. Genesee Circuit Court Judge David Newblatt therefore reviewed the evidence behind doors and then issued indictments against the defendants.

But according to the Michigan Supreme Court, state law only authorizes a judge acting in this unique circumstance to “investigate, subpoena witnesses and issue warrants for your arrest.”

Therefore, the indictments against Snyder, former Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Nick Lyon and others are not valid.

The challenge was originally tabled by Lyon last year.

It remains unclear why Wayne County District Attorney Kym Worthy recommended using the extremely rare, century-old practice of a single-judge grand jury in this case. This practice is often used to protect witnesses who may testify in secret.

“It appears that the power of an investigating judge to issue an indictment was merely an undisputed assumption, until now,” read Tuesday’s ruling.

Lyon and Dr. Eden Wells, former medical director of DHHS, had both been charged with manslaughter for nine Legionnaires’ disease-related deaths. Also charged are: Richard Baird, former head of transformation and senior adviser to Snyder; Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former senior aide; former Flint emergency officials Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; former Flint public works chief Howard Croft; and Nancy Peeler, former director of DHHS’s Early Childhood Health Section.

The three cases decided by the court on Tuesday have been remanded to the Genesee Circuit Court “for further proceedings consistent with this notice.”

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