Prosecutors in Michigan announced on Thursday that former Governor Rick Snyder and several others will face charges for their role in the Flint water crisis.
According to CNN, Snyder faces two counts of willful neglect of duty and has already pleaded not guilty to the charges. Charges were also filed against eight others who were either members of Snyder’s staff, Flint city officials, or state public officials.
Among those charged include Nicholas Lyon, the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, who faces nine counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of willful neglect of duty. Each felony manslaughter charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“The Flint water crisis is not some relic of the past,” Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, one of the prosecutors leading the investigation, said during a news conference. “At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government who trampled upon their trust and evaded accountability for far too long.”
Michigan law prohibits prosecutors from providing details about the evidence that resulted in the charges, though Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy told reporters that her team is “confident” in the charges.
“Like any other case, we charge cases that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Worthy said. “We do not charge cases that we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt, so we are confident in all charges that we have meted out today.”
Flint has been exposed to extremely high levels of lead since 2014 when city and state officials switched the city’s water supply from the Detroit Water System to the contaminated Flint River in an effort to cut costs.
The switch was supposed to be temporary while a new supply line to Lake Huron was completed. When the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality failed to treat the corrosive water, it ate into the city’s iron and lead water pipes and leached into the drinking water.
The contaminated water led to two outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, a serious type of pneumonia caused by bacteria.
Snyder’s attorney Brian Lennon released a statement calling the charges “wholly without merit,” and added that he was confident that Snyder would be “fully exonerated if this flimsy case goes to trial.”
“Today’s charges do nothing to bring justice to the people of Flint,” Lennon said. “These unjustified allegations do nothing to resolve a painful chapter in the history of our state. Today’s actions merely perpetrate an outrageous political persecution.”
I mean, the incompetence of Snyder and his team resulted in the deaths of 12 people and 80 more being sickened. I might be out of my element here, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to think the people of Flint would like to see the people whose decisions led to their pain be held to account.
Granted, these are white men we’re talking about, so I understand that accountability isn’t a word in their vocabulary.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who ended a prior probe in favor of launching a new one last year, released a statement praising the prosecution team. “I trust today’s announcement reflects their professional responsibilities and ethical obligations as the prosecuting authorities in this matter, and that their decisions are based solely on the facts, the law, and the evidence,” Nessel wrote.
During the news conference, prosecutors revealed that all nine people who were charged had already turned themselves in and had been arraigned.