by Scott McClallen
Flint Water prosecutors will appeal a court order dismissing felony charges against seven defendants in the Flint criminal prosecution.
In June, the MSC clarified that a one-man jury could investigate and issue subpoenas and arrest warrants but not indict someone – the tactic used in the Flint charges.
Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy argue that the MSC ruling allowed those cases to be sent to preliminary examination instead of tossing the charges.
“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 said in a statement. “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.”
In September, a court ordered the prosecution to use a “taint team” to separate documents that could augment taxpayer costs from roughly $53 million to $90 million. Still, the prosecution said they will continue pursuing the case.
“The residents of Flint have waited years for their day in court,” the prosecution said. “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.”
Chip Chamberlain, a lawyer for former state health director Nick Lyon, one of the seven initially charged, said the appeal would be meritless.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling was a straightforward and logical reading of the statute governing one-person grand jury investigations,” Chamberlain said in a statement. “The indictment obtained against Director Lyon was without any statutory authority and, therefore, had to be dismissed, which is exactly what the circuit court did.”
The state has dismissed these charges twice – once in 2019 and again in 2022.
“The prosecution knows their case against Director Lyon is, and has been, without merit and contrary to law,” the statement said. “Any appeal would be yet another legal move without merit and contrary to law. Recklessly charging public health officials for good faith decisions made during a crisis is not justice for the people of Flint.”
The Flint Water crisis began when health officials switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-saving measure, but the water wasn’t treated for corrosion control. Lead and other contaminants leached into the drinking water, which supplied roughly 100,000 people.
It’s unclear whether the prosecution can secure convictions before reaching the statute of limitations.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Flint Water Plant” by George Thomas.CC BY-NC-ND 2.0