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Former Michigan governor faces charges for the Flint water crisis that left 12 people dead

FLINT, MI - JANUARY 27: Michigan Gov Rick Snyder speaks to media regarding the status of the Flint water crisis on January 27, 2016 at Flint City Hall in Flint, Michigan. A federal state of emergency has been declared in Flint related to the city's water becoming contaminated. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Rick Snyder

Twelve people died and more than 80 were sickened during the Flint water crisis, and now authorities are holding two Michigan officials responsible.

The Flint Water Prosecution Team is scheduled to announce its findings at a news conference Thursday morning after former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former Flint Public Works director Howard Croft were charged Wednesday.

They each face two counts of willful neglect of duty as part of an investigation into the crisis, according to court documents. The charges are misdemeanors, punishable with up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000, the state’s penal code shows.

Snyder pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday, his attorney Brian Lennon told CNN.

In a statement, Lennon said the charges were “wholly without merit,” adding Snyder’s lawyers were “confident” he 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.”

Croft also pleaded not guilty plea Thursday, an attorney for the former public works director told CNN.

Attorney Jamie White said he took the misdemeanor charges as a sign of weak evidence against his client.

“You don’t go to a grand jury to ask for a misdemeanor,” said White. “Whatever evidence they presented to the grand jury, they weren’t buying it.”

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 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.

More than a dozen lawsuits and a $600 million settlement

Snyder, who served from 2010 to 2018, apologized in 2016 for the state’s role in the crisis.

Court documents for Snyder, a Republican, show the offense date as April 25, 2014, the same day Flint switched its water source.

Brian Lennon, an attorney for Snyder, said earlier Wednesday that his client was being made into a scapegoat by a politically driven special counsel. Lennon called reports that his client would be charged “meritless” and part of a “political escapade.”

An attorney for Croft told The Detroit News that his client was informed Monday he would be charged.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office had no comment about the charges Wednesday evening.

Flint residents had been complaining about the poor quality of their water when the Environmental Protection Agency tested water going into homes there in 2015, finding dangerous levels of lead, which can cause serious health issues.

More than a dozen lawsuits, including several class-action suits, were filed against the state, the city of Flint and some state and city employees involved in the decision to switch the source of the drinking water and those responsible for monitoring water quality.

Last year, the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, and a court-monitored compensation fund was established.

The Legionnaires’ outbreak led to criminal charges against state officials, including Nick Lyon, then-director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in 2017.

Prosecutors dropped all criminal charges in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.



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