Judge tosses charges against 7 people in Flint water crisis

Flint Water
Posted at 1:18 PM, Oct 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-04 17:21:47-04

A Michigan judge dismissed charges Tuesday 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 said a one-judge grand jury had no authority to issue indictments.

Kelly rejected efforts by the attorney general's office to just send the cases to Flint District Court and turn them into criminal complaints, the typical path to filing felony charges in Michigan.

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

Kelly's decision doesn't affect former Gov. Rick Snyder. That's only because he was charged with misdemeanors and his case is being handled by a judge in a different Flint court. But he, too, was indicted in a process declared invalid by the Supreme Court.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and the Flint Water Prosecution Team released the following statement about Judge Kelly’s dismissal of charges:

We are committed to Flint.

Despite the prosecution’s tireless pursuit of justice for the victims of the water crisis, the courts have once again sided in favor of well-connected, wealthy individuals with political power and influence instead of the families and children of Flint.

The proceedings up to this point have been a challenge of process that ultimately led to the Supreme Court, where a prosecutorial tool that has been relied upon for decades was suddenly changed. That same tool has been used and was historically upheld by the appellate courts in various jurisdictions in Michigan to bring charges against defendants of often-limited means. However, it was not until its use in this case against these privileged and well-funded defendants that the courts did see fit to overturn established precedent and procedure.

We longed for the day when we would present the evidence against the defendants to a jury. However, these defendants have spared no expense to ensure that these cases were disposed of by judges based upon anything except the merits of the cases. As a result, the victims of Flint have never had their day in court.

There are not adequate words to express the anger and disappointment felt by our team, who have spent years on this case only to see it thwarted based upon a new interpretation of a nearly century-old law. Though it may be of little comfort, the people of Flint have always had on their side a dedicated team of lawyers and advocates committed to justice and with the sincere belief that what happened to the people of Flint is a crime.

The civil settlements are not sufficient. Compensation is not the same as accountability for those who allegedly allowed an entire town to be poisoned. And it is not the same as justice.

The prosecution has pledged to exhaust all available legal options to pursue this case and that pledge remains. The team will review today’s ruling and continue its pursuit of justice for Flint.

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 wasn’t treated to reduce its corrosive qualities. Lead broke off from old pipes and contaminated the system for more than a year.

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