The water contamination in Majority-Black Flint, Michigan is seen as an example of environmental injustice and racism.
Two former Michigan health officials have been charged with manslaughter in the deaths of nine people with Legionnaires’ disease during the Flint water crisis.
Prosecutors revisiting the contamination of the city’s water system with lead and bacteria also hammered a key adviser to the former governor Rick snyder with crimes of extortion and perjury.
Snyder joined a parade of former state and local officials pleading not guilty in Genesee County courts. He faces tort charges of willful neglect of his duties at Flint in a case that was filed Wednesday evening, the first governor or former governor of Michigan in 184 years to face charges related to time spent in that office .
Details behind the charges were not disclosed to the court. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and prosecutors were planning to hold a late morning press conference.
Wearing a mask, Snyder, 62, said little during his brief hearing, which was conducted by video. He replied, “Yes, Your Honor,” when asked if he lived in Michigan. A conviction results in up to one year in prison and a fine of $ 1,000 if convicted.
Defense lawyer Brian Lennon called the case a “parody”.
“These unwarranted allegations do nothing to resolve a painful chapter in our state’s history,” Lennon said in a written statement. “Today’s actions only perpetrate scandalous political persecution.”
Former public health director Nick Lyon and former state medical director Eden Wells have both been charged with manslaughter.
Snyder, a Republican, was governor from 2011 to 2018. The former IT executive introduced himself as a problem-solving “nerd” who avoided partisan politics and favored online dashboards to show off government performance. Flint turned out to be the worst chapter of his two terms due to a series of catastrophic decisions that will affect residents for years to come.
The date of Snyder’s alleged crimes at Flint is April 25, 2014, when an emergency official appointed by Snyder, Darnell Earley, who ruled the troubled majority black town, made an economic decision to use the River Flint for the water. while a Lake Huron pipeline was under construction.
Corrosive water, however, was not treated properly and released lead from old plumbing in homes.
Despite desperate pleas from residents holding jugs of discolored, skunky water, the Snyder administration took no meaningful action until a doctor reported high levels of lead in children about 18 months later.
Lead can damage the brain and nervous system and cause learning and behavior problems. Flint’s woes have been presented as an example of environmental injustice and racism.
Prosecutors charged Earley with misconduct in the office. Rich Baird, Snyder’s friend and close advisor, has been charged with extortion, perjury and obstruction of justice. Jarrod Agen, who was communications director before working for Vice President Mike Pence, has been charged with perjury. He then left the government for a job with a defense contractor.
Authorities have counted at least 90 cases of Legionella in Genesee County during the water change, including 12 deaths. Some experts have found that there is not enough chlorine in Flint’s water treatment system to control Legionella bacteria, which can trigger a severe form of pneumonia when spread through misting systems. and cooling.
This is the second time that Lyon and Wells have been charged with manslaughter, but past cases have not resulted in so many deaths. They were accused in 2017 of failing to notify the public in a timely manner of the outbreak, but the cases were dropped by prosecutors when they decided to reconsider the evidence.
A conviction for manslaughter carries up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $ 7,500.