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Flint water crisis charges dismissed against seven former officials - Energy And Water Development Corp

Flint water crisis charges dismissed against seven former officials

FLINT, MI — Felony criminal charges tied to the Flint water crisis against seven former government officials have been dismissed by a Genesee Circuit Court judge.

Judge Elizabeth A. Kelly issued the order granting dismissal of the cases on Tuesday, Oct. 4, saying the indictments issued against the officials, including former cabinet members of former Gov. Rick Snyder, are invalid.

The ruling wipes out criminal charges against Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Snyder’s former senior adviser Richard Baird; former Flint emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; Dr. Eden Wells, the former chief medical executive for MDHHS; Jarrod Agen, former director of communications and former chief of staff for Snyder; and Nancy Peeler, who served as the Early Childhood Health Section manager at MDHHS.

Kelly’s ruling comes after the Michigan Supreme Court held in June that a one-man grand jury used to indict Lyon, Snyder and seven others didn’t have the authority to do so and that those charged with the alleged crimes were entitled to preliminary exams that they did not initially receive.

Related: Judge had no power to indict in Flint water crisis cases, Michigan Supreme Court rules

“As stated earlier, this Court is bound by the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision … Because the one-person grand jury does not have the power to issue indictments, the indictments issued in the felony Flint water cases were void ab initio. Therefore, anything arising out of the invalid indictments are irreconcilably tainted from inception,” Kelly wrote in her six-page decision.

Kelly’s ruling does not address misdemeanor criminal charges related to the water crisis that Snyder and Howard Croft, Flint’s former Department of Public Works director, are facing in Genesee District Court.

The most serious charges dismissed by Kelly on Tuesday had been filed against Wells and Lyon, each of whom faced nine counts of involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 15 years in prison; and Agen and Baird, who were each charged with perjury, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Earley had been charged with three felony counts of misconduct in office, each count punishable by up to five years in prison. He was appointed by Snyder as Flint’s emergency manager in September 2013 and oversaw the decision to change the city’s water source to the Flint River in what was designed to be a short-term, cost-saving move in April 2014.

The change in the city’s water source triggered elevated levels of lead, chlorination byproducts and bacteria in Flint’s water, creating a federally recognized emergency in the city.

Ambrose, also a former emergency manager in Flint, had been charged with four counts of misconduct in office, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Peeler had been charged with two counts of felony misconduct in office, punishable by up to five years in prison, and one count of willful neglect of duty.

MLive-The Flint Journal could not immediately reach Flint water prosecutors for comment on Tuesday.

The state’s prosecution team has been led by Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Kelly’s order Tuesday marks the second time Flint water criminal charges against current and former city and state officials have been dismissed after having been filed.

Hammoud dismissed without prejudice eight pending criminal cases related to Flint water in June 2019, bringing to an end to prosecutions started by former Attorney General Bill Schuette and former special prosecutor Todd Flood.

Lyon, Wells, Earley, Ambrose, Peeler and Croft were charged in both of the two separate rounds of prosecutions.

Hammoud announced new criminal charges against those six officials, Snyder and Agen and Baird in January 2021.

Attorneys for Lyon were the first to comment on Kelly’s ruling Tuesday, saying it was the “logical result of a misguided prosecution which used unlawful processes to investigate crimes that never occurred.”

“For over six years, the prosecution has ignored what actually happened and, instead, pursued unsupportable claims and legal theories,” the statement says.

“Director Lyon is confident that a fair and impartial investigation would exonerate him … There was no basis in 2017 to charge Director Lyon, no basis in 2021 to charge him again, and there is no basis today. This misuse of the criminal justice system has to stop.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Read more at The Flint Journal:

Former Snyder chief of staff wants Flint water case dismissed, but AG plans to press forward

Michigan Supreme Court deals setback to Flint water prosecutors

Lyon channels Harry Potter in asking judge to dismiss Flint water charges

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