Judge dismisses felony charges against 7 Flint water crisis defendants
Updated Tuesday, October 4, 5:12 p.m.
Criminal charges against seven former government officials in the Flint water crisis have been dismissed.
Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Kelly cited a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling in her decision to dismiss the charges. The state’s highest court ruled the one-man grand jury used to issue indictments was unconstitutional.
The decision drops felony charges against former state health department director Nick Lyon, former Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells, two former Flint emergency managers (Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose), two aides to former Governor Rick Snyder (Richard Baird and Jarrod Agen) and former state health department employee Nancy Peeler.
The Michigan Attorney General's office had sought to have the cases moved to district court, instead of being dismissed.
The Michigan Attorney General’s office is expressing “anger and disappointment” at the judge’s decision.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and the Flint Water Prosecution Team released a statement saying they remain 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 ruling does not affect former Governor Rick Snyder’s misdemeanor charges of willful neglect of duty. His case is currently in district court, along with former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft’s misdemeanor case.
Attorney Chip Chamberlain represents Nick Lyon, who was facing multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter. Chamberlain said, “This misuse of the criminal justice system has to stop.”
“We’re cautiously optimistic. We hope that clearer heads will prevail and they’ll abandon this effort,” said Chamberlain, after Judge Kelly issued her decision.
Chamberlain believes the statute of limitations will prevent prosecutors from trying to resurrect the case against his client.
The judge’s decision does not prevent prosecutors from filing new charges against the seven defendants. Though, Judge Kelly did direct the Michigan attorney general's office to establish a team to review evidence in the case to prevent the accidental release of documents.
Prosecutors say they will review Tuesday's ruling, pledging to exhaust all available legal options to pursue this case and continue its pursuit of justice for Flint.
Meanwhile, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley expressed disappointment with the decision to dismiss charges against the 7 defendants.
"It is an injustice that the residents have not had the opportunity to hold these individuals responsible for the crimes of the Flint water crisis, and the taxpayers have been burdened with the cost of the defense and the prosecution," said Neeley in a written statement.
It's been nearly 8 years since the city of Flint's water source was changed in a effort to save money. Improperly treated river water damaged city pipes releasing lead and other substances into the city's drinking water.