There is still no justice for the thousands of people affected by the Flint water crisis. On Thursday the Michigan Attorney General’s office announced they were dismissing all criminal charges against the eight individuals charged in the investigation.
The Michigan prosecution team said that there were serious concerns with the investigation and that they will be starting fresh. They promise a “full and complete investigation.”
“We cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation. Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical, and ethical investigation,” said Fadwa Hammoud, Michigan’s Solicitor General, and Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor.
The charges being dropped are against eight former officials, including former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) director Nick Lyon, who was facing involuntary manslaughter charges; Eden Wells, Michigan’s former chief medical executive; former emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; two other DHHS officials, Nancy Peeler and Robert Scott; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official Patrick Cook; and former Flint Department of Public Works Director Howard Croft. Seven other current and former officials were charged and already accepted plea deals.
“Words cannot express how disappointed I am that justice continues to be delayed and denied to the people of my city,” said State Senate Minority Leaders Jim Ananich in a statement.
The investigations began under former Attorney General Bill Schuette. The statement from the office of the new Attorney General Dana Nessel referenced problems with original investigation and states that the dismissals don’t preclude recharging the original defendants or adding new ones.
Some of the problems with the original investigation include the fact that not all evidence in the case was pursued and that private law firms representing former Michigan Governor Rick Synder were allowed “a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement.”
Most residents responded with outrage at the dismissal, saying it was a “slap in the face to Flint Residents” and that they are “very disappointed” because it doesn’t seem like justice is coming.”
The odds of additional charges being brought are good though. Just recently authorities executed search warrants after new evidence was uncovered in the basement of a state-owned building. According to the prosecution team, “This week, we completed the transfer into our possession millions of documents and hundreds of new electronic devices, significantly expanding the scope of our investigation.” They also stated that the team has already identified additional individuals of interest and new information relevant to the Flint water crisis,” and that the leads will be “aggressively pursued.”
The cases in the Flint water crisis began five years ago after the city decided to switch the city’s water source to a polluted source heavily contaminated with lead. Residents have experienced serious side effects from the contaminated water, including rashes, flu-like symptoms, and possible Legionnaires’ disease, which was killed 12 people in the county and sickened at least 90 others.