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Michigan Prosecutors Vow to Appeal Ruling Tossing Flint Water Crisis Charges Against Seven People

AG Dana Nessel

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at a campaign rally held by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.). (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.)

Michigan prosecutors signaled their plans to appeal a judge’s ruling earlier this month dismissing charges against seven people criminally charged in connection with the Flint water crisis.

On Oct. 4, Genesee County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Kelly tossed charges against seven former Michigan officials.

They were ex-health director Nick Lyon; former state medical executive Eden Wells; Richard Baird, an erstwhile senior advisor to former Gov. Rick Snyder; Snyder’s then-communications director Jarrod Agen; former Flint emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; and former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services employee Nancy Peeler.

The ruling scuttled the charges against the septet based on the controversial and since-rescinded “one man grand jury” mechanism prosecutors used to indict them.

“If the people seek future charges against defendants, they must follow one of the proper charging procedures outlined by the Supreme Court,” Kelly wrote at the time.

The office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) released a statement by the prosecution team defending the procedures they followed — and vowing an appeal.

“The residents of Flint have waited years for their day in court,” the statement begins. “The court proceedings up to this point have been a challenge to the process, not the merits of the case. The public deserves to hear the evidence against these defendants. Remanding these cases for preliminary exam is the next logical step in the legal process based on the ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court.”

Turning to the legal basis for the dismissal, the statement continues:

The Michigan Supreme Court did not abolish the one-person grand jury, but instead more specifically defined the process, leaving a path for the prosecution to pursue charges against the defendants. The prosecution followed the law in using the one-person grand jury process from the beginning and is prepared to move forward on the valid warrants issued in these cases in compliance with the new process defined in the opinion from the Court.

The prosecution is ready to present their case and looks forward to seeing the people of Flint have their day in Court.

Since the Flint water crisis bubbled to national attention in 2014, efforts to sue or prosecute officials and corporate actors accused of being responsible for it have received repeated setbacks. In August, a federal judge declared a mistrial in a civil case against two private companies: engineering firms Veolia North America (VNA) and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam. Jurors said that they could not continue deliberations without it taking a toll on their “physical and emotional” well-being.

At the time, the contractors claimed that that they were being made out to be a “corporate scapegoat” for wrongdoing by officials, and local activists appeared to agree — using the occasion of the mistrial to level accusations at former Gov. Snyder, whose charges are being handled separately from the other seven.

In 2021, the Washington Post reported that Flint residents are still hesitant to drink the water, even after the city replaced some 10,000 lead pipes.

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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."