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Defense attorney complains of "an extraordinary breach of the attorney-client privilege" in Flint water crisis case

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Defense Attorney Brian Lennon calls the release of internal defense documents 'an extraordinary breach of the attorney client privilege.'

A judge heard arguments Wednesday over how the Michigan Attorney General’s office has handled documents connected to the Flint water crisis criminal investigation.

Former Governor Rick Snyder is among nine officials criminally charged in connection with the crisis. Snyder is facing misdemeanor willful neglect of duty charges. Each charge is punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of $1,000 or less.

A one-man grand jury issued the indictments. Since January, prosecutors had been sharing documents from the grand jury probe as part of the discovery process.

But some of the documents prosecutors have shared included internal defense documents. The documents were shared with attorneys defending Flint water crisis defendants.

Brian Lennon is Snyder’s defense attorney. He said the documents can outline their “whole legal defense strategy.”

“Your honor, they’re asking you to bless an extraordinary breach of the attorney-client privilege and attorney work product,” said Lennon.

Prosecutors have disagreed with the seriousness of the breach.

Chris Kessel is an assistant attorney general.

“It’s not having the information,” Kessel said during Wednesday’s hearing. “It’s what you do with it that matters, according to the Court of Appeals.”

Last month, a circuit court judge temporarily put the discovery process on hold, on the review of 21 million documents.

Meanwhile, District Court Judge William Crawford declined to weigh in on the defense request during Wednesday’s hearing, as he is waiting for a ruling on whether he will continue to oversee the former governor’s misdemeanor criminal case.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.