U.S. District Judge Judith Levy ruled that former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and four other officials must testify in the Flint water crisis civil trial against several engineering firms, Detroit Free Press reports.
Lockwood, Andrews & Newman, and Veolia North America are being sued on behalf of children harmed by the contaminated drinking water. The companies were not a part of the $626.5 million settlement agreement granted in 2021. Attorneys representing the children allege the companies were negligent in not doing more to get the city to properly treat water that was being pulled from the Flint River in 2014-15.
The defendants argued that the fifth amendment entitled them to blanket immunity from questioning during the trial. Judge Levy denied motions from all five representatives to quash subpoenas compelling them to testify–noting Snyder and the other officials already have given detailed deposition testimony and interviews without invoking the Fifth amendment previously.
“Each … voluntarily testified during the deposition phase of this case, and now wishes to invoke the privilege against self-incrimination on the same subject matter,” Levy continued. “They cannot do so.”
“The deposition in this case and the trial are all part of a single proceeding,” she said.
Snyder faces two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty in Genesee District Court tied to his alleged wrongdoing during the water crisis. Two weeks ago, Snyder stated he would invoke his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination if he is forced to appear.
“To be clear, Governor Snyder maintains his innocence. But as the Supreme Court has recognized, the Fifth Amendment privilege is available to the innocent as well as the guilty,” a motion filed U.S. District Court on Friday, March 4, says.
“Accordingly, Governor Snyder, on the advice of undersigned counsel, will invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege as to any question that conceivably could be put to him at trial. This Court should exercise its discretion to sustain Governor Snyder’s invocation of the privilege and quash the subpoenas, thereby enabling the parties to seek to admit Governor Snyder’s multi-day deposition transcript,” the filing says.