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Former Gov. Snyder permitted to appeal judge's ruling to testify in Flint water crisis civil trial

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steve carmody
/
Michigan Radio
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (file photo)

Former Gov. Rick Snyder will be permitted to ask a federal appeals court to allow him not to testify at a Flint water crisis civil trial.

The trial involves damage claims on behalf of four Flint children against two engineering firms, Veolia North America (VNA) and Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam (LAN), hired as consultants on the city’s water system.

The former governor is among five potential witnesses who are facing criminal charges in connection with the crisis. In addition to Snyder, lawyers in the civil trial have subpoenaed former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, former Snyder aide Rich Baird and former Flint Public Works director Howard Croft.

The five want to invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination. But the federal judge hearing the case says they can’t.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Judith Levy cited the fact Snyder and the others did not invoke their Fifth Amendment right during pre-trial depositions. Those depositions took place before the criminal indictments were handed down.

The judge says now they have to testify if called. If Snyder or the others refused to testify, they could be held in contempt.

But on Friday, Levy certified the interlocutory appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court sought by Snyder and the other potential witnesses.

In her decision, Levy wrote “an expedited ruling from the Sixth Circuit would materially advance the ultimate termination of this litigation.”

Specifically, the judge notes that “the presence or absence of key witnesses at trial could certainly have a material effect on the outcome.”

Judge Levy writes, in this case, the defense attorneys’ strategy is partly based on placing the blame for the Flint water crisis on “the shoulders of the very government officials who now seek to remain silent.”

The trial taking place in Ann Arbor is expected to take several more months.

For the past month, jurors have listened to a long line of witnesses testifying from technical or administrative perspectives. Next week, the jurors are expected to her from the mothers of two of the children exposed to Flint’s lead tainted drinking water.