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Michigan’s highest court will not revive Flint water charges against 7 key figures

DETROIT — The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a last-ditch attempt to revive criminal charges against seven people in the Flint water scandal, rejecting an appeal from prosecutors who desperately tried to circumvent a 2022 ruling that emptied the files.

The attorney general’s office used an unusual tool — a single-judge grand jury — to hear evidence and return indictments against nine people, including former Gov. Rick Snyder. But last year, the Supreme Court declared the procedure unconstitutional and struck down the charges as invalid.

The public prosecutors, however, did not let themselves be discouraged. They returned to Flint courts and argued that the charges could be easily revived with a simple filing of documents. That position has been repeatedly rejected all the way to the state’s highest court.

“We are not persuaded that the question posed should be considered by this court,” the Supreme Court said in a series of one-sentence orders on Wednesday.

There was no immediate response to an email seeking comment from Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office.

Orders were filed against former state health director Nick Lyon, former state medical director Eden Wells and five others.

Snyder was charged with willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor. The indictment against him was also dismissed, although the Supreme Court did not consider prosecutors’ appeal Wednesday only because that case is on a different schedule.

Snyder-appointed managers turned the Flint River into a water source for the city of Flint in 2014, but the water was not treated to reduce its corrosive impact on old pipes. Result: lead contaminated the system for 18 months.

Lyon and Wells were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Some experts attributed a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-2015 to the water change. They were accused of failing to warn the public in a timely manner.

Indictments were also brought against Snyder’s former chief of staff, Jarrod Agen; another key aide, Rich Baird; former Flint principals Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; Howard Croft, former city public works director; and former health official Nancy Peeler.

Snyder acknowledged that state government botched the water switch, particularly regulators not requiring certain treatments. But his lawyers deny that his conduct rose to the level of any crime.

Prosecutors could try to start from scratch. But any attempt to bring charges in a more traditional manner against certain targets could now be barred by Michigan’s six-year statute of limitations.

“We hope the attorney general will let Mr. Ambrose live out the rest of his life in peace,” defense attorney William Swor said, noting that Ambrose last worked in Flint in 2015.

Since 2016, the attorney general’s office, led by a Republican and now a Democrat, has attempted to hold people criminally responsible for the Flint water disaster, but there have been no felony convictions or prison sentences. prison. Seven people pleaded no contest to offenses that were later expunged from their records.

In 2017, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission said the water change was the result of systemic racism, doubting that eliminating complaints about the river’s poor water quality would have occurred in a white, prosperous community. Nearly 57% of Flint residents are black.

Separately, the state agreed to pay $600 million as part of a $626 million settlement with residents and homeowners who were harmed by lead-contaminated water. Most of the money goes to the children.


Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez

ABC News

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