On Tuesday, a Michigan judge threw out charges against seven people who were involved in the Flint water crisis. Three months after the Michigan Supreme Court declared that a one-judge grand jury had no authority to issue indictments, Judge Elizabeth Kelly made her ruling.
Kelly dismissed attempts made by the attorney general’s office to send the cases to Flint District Court then have them become criminal complaints. This is usually how felony charges are filed in Michigan. The judge remarked: “Simply put, there are no valid charges.”
Governor Rick Snyder was unaffected because he was charged with misdemeanors and his case is being handled by another judge in a different Flint court. He was also indicted in a process that the Supreme Court deemed invalid.
Back in 2014, Flint managers—under Snyder’s command— removed the city from having a regional water system in favor of using the Flint River to save money as a new pipeline to Lake Huron was being constructed. However, the river water wasn’t treated to lower its corrosive characteristics.
Lead broke off from old pipes and polluted the system for more than a year. Additionally, the water was faulted for a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, which usually spreads through heating and cooling systems.
Nick Lyon, the former state health director, as well as the former chief medical executive Eden Wells were both charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to nine deaths traced to Legionnaires’ disease. They were accused of not warning the Flint area about the outbreak until it was too late.
Lyon’s attorneys, Chip Chamberlain and Ron DeWaard, expressed gratitude for Kelly’s ruling and encouraged the attorney general’s office to end this “misguided prosecution.”
“This misuse of the criminal justice system has to stop. Misleading statements about what Director Lyon did or didn’t do contribute nothing to a constructive public dialogue and do not represent justice for anyone,” they said.