Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder And 8 Others Criminally Charged In Flint Water Crisis

Jan 15, 2021
Originally published on January 15, 2021 7:28 am

The Michigan Attorney General's Office Thursday announced criminal charges for eight former state officials, including the state's former Gov. Rick Snyder, along with one current official, for their alleged roles in the Flint water crisis.

Together the group face 42 counts related to the drinking water catastrophe roughly seven years ago. The crimes range from perjury to misconduct in office to involuntary manslaughter.

The drinking water debacle is linked to at least 12 deaths and at least 80 people sickened with Legionnaires' disease after untreated water from the Flint River caused lead to leach from old pipes, poisoning the majority Black city's water system.

Snyder, a Republican who left office two years ago, is facing two counts of willful neglect, both misdemeanors which each carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine up to $1,000.

The attorney general's announcement cites other charges as follows:

Jarrod Agen – Former Director of Communications and Former Chief of Staff, Executive Office of Gov. Rick Snyder

  • One count of perjury – a 15-year felony  

Gerald Ambrose – Former City of Flint Emergency Manager

  • Four counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine

Richard Baird – Former Transformation Manager and Senior Adviser, Executive Office of Gov. Snyder

  • One count of perjury – a 15-year felony
  • One count of official misconduct in office – a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • One count of obstruction of justice – a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • One count of extortion – a 20-year felony and/or $10,000 fine

Howard Croft – Former Director of the City of Flint Department of Public Works

  • Two counts of willful neglect of duty – each a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine 

Darnell Earley – Former City of Flint Emergency Manager

  • Three counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine 

Nicolas Lyon – Former Director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

  • Nine counts of involuntary manslaughter – each a 15-year felony and/or $7,500 fine 
  • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine 

Nancy Peeler – Current Early Childhood Health Section Manager, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

  • Two counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine

Eden Wells – Former Chief Medical Executive, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

  • Nine counts of involuntary manslaughter – each a 15-year felony and/or $7,500 fine
  • Two counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine

Prosecutors said all of the defendants turned themselves into the Genesee County, Mich., jail and were processed.

At the media briefing announcing the charges, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the investigation included pouring over "literally millions and millions of documents and several electronic devices." She added it also involved dozens of search warrants and countless hours worked by investigators during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our work on this case begins with the understanding that the impact of the Flint water crisis cases and what happened in Flint will span generations and probably well beyond," she said.

Worthy, a Democrat, also sought to push back on questions whether the criminal charges brought by current Michigan officials were influenced by politics.

"This case has nothing whatsoever to do with partisanship," Worthy said. "It has to do with human decency, resurrecting the complete abandonment of the people of Flint and finally, finally holding people accountable for their alleged unspeakable atrocities that occurred in Flint all these years ago."

Earlier this week, as reports began to surface that charges were looming, an attorney for Snyder, the former governor, referred to them as "a politically motivated smear campaign," according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Free Press also reported Snyder entered a not guilty plea Thursday morning from a Genesee County jail booth as he and his lawyer appeared remotely via Zoom. The paper also notes its the first time in the state's history that a current or former governor is facing criminal charges for alleged misconduct while in office.

In this image taken from video, former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, left, with his lawyer, Brian Lennon, leave Genesee County Court in Flint, Mich., after a initial court appearance via Zoom on two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty in connection to the Flint water crisis.
Corey Williams / AP

Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud said Thursday that even though charges have been filed, the investigation into the crisis remains open, Michigan Public Radio reports.

Speaking at the media briefing, Hammoud characterized the crisis as a "categorical failure of public officials" at all levels.

"When an entire city is victimized by the negligence and indifference of those in power, it deserves an uncompromising investigation that holds to account anyone who is criminally culpable," Hammoud said.

Snyder and Croft, the former director of the Flint Department of Public Works, are scheduled to be back in court Jan. 19.

The next court appearance for the other defendants is Feb. 18, according to Michigan Attorney General's office.

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