State Watch

Charges dismissed against 7 people in Flint water crisis

LindaParton/ iStock
Flint, Michigan, USA – January 23, 2016: Flint Water Plant Tank which holds drinking water for the city of Flint, Michigan.

A Michigan judge on Tuesday dismissed criminal charges against seven former government officials who were accused of misconduct in the Flint water crisis.

Judge Elizabeth Kelly in the Genesee County Circuit Court ruled the charges were invalid against the officials, including two former state employees accused of involuntary manslaughter after some Flint residents died from Legionnaires’ Disease following the water crisis.

The ruling comes about three months after the Michigan Supreme Court said a one-judge grand jury that indicted the former government officials did not have the authority to do so.

Criminal charges are now wiped out against several state government officials, including Nick Lyon, the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and former chief medical executive Eden Wells.

Lyon and Wells were charged with involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of nine people and had faced up to 15 years in prison.

In 2014, the administration under former Gov. Rick Snyder (R) switched Flint’s water supply to the Flint River to save money while a new pipeline to Lake Huron was being built. The river water was not treated correctly, and lead broke off from old pipes and contaminated the town’s water supply for more than a year.

Snyder faces charges in a separate court but was indicted under the same one-judge grand jury, according to Michigan Live.

Charges against Richard Baird, a former senior adviser to Snyder, as well as Jarrod Agen, the former chief of staff and communications director for the governor and Nancy Peeler, a former manager of the Early Childhood Section at MDHHS, were dismissed.

At the local level, former Flint emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley also had their charges dismissed.

Baird and Agen had faced up to 15 years in prison for perjury, while Earley had faced three felony charges of misconduct, each count punishable by up to five years in prison, Michigan Live reported.

Ambrose was charged with four counts of felony misconduct and Peeler two counts of felony misconduct.

Flint, a predominantly low-income, Black community, suffered for years from the water crisis even after the town switched back to the Lake Huron supply. At least 12 people died and more than 80 fell ill.

One in four Flint residents have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, while children and adults who have suffered from high blood-lead levels are at increased risk of cognitive defects.

Last year, a judge awarded $626 million to thousands of affected Flint residents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags Eden Wells Flint Michigan Nick Lyon Rick Snyder Rick Snyder Water crisis

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