A judge has agreed to put the criminal case against former Gov. Rick Snyder on hold for a few months.
Snyder is facing two misdemeanor counts of Willful Neglect of Duty tied to the Flint water crisis. If convicted, the former governor could face up to year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. He has entered pleas of not guilty.
Snyder was charged in January, along with eight others. Seven are facing a variety of felony charges. Snyder and former Flint City Public Works director Howard Croft are charged with misdemeanors only.
Defense attorneys tried and failed to convince District Court Judge William Crawford to dismiss the charges against Snyder, on the grounds the one-man grand jury that indicted Snyder lacked jurisdiction and that the former governor was charged in the wrong county.
Tuesday, District Court Judge William Crawford II agreed to adjourn the case for a few months, while defense attorneys ask a higher court to review the judge’s decision not to dismiss the case.
“It would be, we believe, a waste of this court’s time and resources, and taxpayer resources, to continue litigating a matter which ultimately may be dismissed,” argued defense attorney Madelaine Lane.
While the ruling puts most of the case against the former governor on hold, the judge still wants the attorneys to continue to share documents in the case.
Defense attorney Madelaine Lane says they could ultimately have to review 21 million documents presented to the grand jury. The exact number remains unclear as the documents are still held up in a lengthy review. It may be June, at the earliest, before the grand jury documents will be released to the attorneys.
During the brief court hearing, Judge Crawford talked about how most cases involving misdemeanors can be wrapped in a few months. But in this case, Crawford opined that the case of the former governor may take “two or three years.”
As governor, Rick Snyder appointed managers to run the city of Flint, which was mired in debt, starting in 2011. Those managers oversaw the switching of the city’s drinking water source. The intent of the switch was to save the city money.
After the city started getting its drinking water from the Flint River in April, 2014, residents started complaining about foul-smelling, bad tasting tap water. 18 months later, the city switched back to Detroit’s water system. But by then, tests showed Flint children had elevated blood lead levels. Also, at least a dozen people died during a Legionnaires Disease outbreak in Genesee County.
Monday was the deadline for people to opt-in or opt-out of a $641 million settlement of legal claims against the state of Michigan, city of Flint, McLaren Flint hospital, and Rowe Professional Services. The bulk of the money is earmarked for children exposed to high lead levels in their drinking water. A federal judge will decide later this year whether to give the settlement final approval.