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Judge Refuses Requests by Ex-Gov. Rick Snyder’s Aides, Others Charged in Flint Water Crisis to Review Indictments


Rick Snyder via SAUL LOEB_AFP_Getty Images

Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s (R) former chief of staff, his former senior adviser and three other state and local officials lost their request for a preliminary examination that would have challenged whether their judge-ordered indictments in connection with the Flint water crisis were supported by probable cause.

The development highlights the slow but steady pace of prosecution after lead-tainted water sparked a public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, exacerbated by official denials and allegedly criminal lies by those in power. The water problems are believed to have lasted roughly half a decade, between 2014 and 2019.

“Despite continued attempts by the defendants to delay these cases, we won multiple rulings this week affirming our team’s work to bring these cases to trial,” Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud said in a statement on Friday. “These victories are important steps forward to deliver justice for the people of Flint.”

On Friday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) announced two favorable court rulings. The first of these involved five criminal cases:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s ex-chief of staff and director of communications, who is charged with one count of perjury;
  • Richard Baird, Snyder’s former senior adviser, who faces charges of perjury, official misconduct, obstruction of justice and extortion;
  • Nancy Peeler, the current Early Childhood Health Section Manager for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, who is facing two counts of misconduct in office and one count of willful neglect of duty;
  • Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, two ex-City of Flint emergency managers, who both face multiple counts of misconduct in office: four and three charges, respectively.

They are among 41 people charged in connection with the Flint water crisis, including Snyder himself, who lost his own bid to toss the charges against him earlier this year in March.

Under Michigan law, people accused of crimes can seek a preliminary examinations to examine the basis of an indictment under certain circumstances. Agen, who went on serve former Vice President Mike Pence after Snyder, and four of his co-defendants challenged the fact that they were indicted by a single judge rather than a citizen grand jury. The same argument failed for Snyder before Judge William Crawford II in March.

The five found no better luck with the same gambit in front of Judge Elizabeth A. Kelly of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court on Wednesday.

“Defendants try to complicate an issue that, in essence, is straightforward: whether Defendants are entitled to preliminary examinations after being indicted by a one-person grand jury. They are not,” Judge Kelly wrote in the conclusion of an 11-page ruling.

According to the ruling, all five were indicted by 7th Circuit Court Judge David Newblatt, who was elected to his current position in 2004.

“Indictments issued by a one-person grand jury carries equal weight to indictments issued by a citizens’ grand jury,” Kelly wrote. “In both situations, indictments are issued by a grand jury after the finding of probable cause.”

In another victory for prosecutors later in the week, Eden Wells—the former Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service—was not granted leave to appeal before Michigan’s intermediate court of review.

Michigan Court of Appeals Presiding Judge Mark J. Cavanagh rejected Wells’s appeal in a one-sentence ruling on Wednesday.

Read the rulings below:

(Photo via SAUL LOEB of AFP, via Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."