First high stakes criminal case in Flint Water Crisis goes to court

FLINT, Mich. (WXYZ) - The first of several high stakes criminal cases in the Flint Water Crisis goes to court Thursday. Nick Lyon, the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is charged with Misconduct in Office and Involuntary Manslaughter.

They are working to find out if Lyon failed to warn the public about the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease as it was spreading and people were dying. 

The water switch in April of 2014 created the Flint Water Crisis. The move off the Detroit water system to the Flint River was done during a state takeover to save millions. 

People in Flint could soon see, taste and smell the awful change. But they had no idea how serious it would get.

A team led by Virginia Tech water expert Dr. Mark Edwards would first detect the high levels of lead in the water and determine river water was more corrosive and was not properly treated. 

Flint Pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was first to discover that kids had gotten lead poisoning - 9,000 kids were exposed.

By late 2014, dozens of vulnerable seniors would get Legionnaires Disease, 12 would die.

A full year later, the first high profile visit by a state official and it was not Governor Rick Snyder.  It was the Directors of the state Health and Environmental Quality Departments. 

“It is a situation that deserves attention. I do not believe it rises to a (statewide) emergency.  We are here with the resources necessary to address the situation without that declaration,” Lyon would say on October 2, 2015.

But the Michigan Attorney General and his team would allege in court documents that Lyon knew about the Legionnaires outbreak much earlier, “at least by January of 2015.” 

They also allege Lyon would later say, “he can’t save everyone” and “everyone has to die of something.”

The Governor has not fired Lyon. The state is paying for his defense attorneys. 

Dr, Eden Wells is the top medical officer in DHHS. She is charged with Obstruction of Justice and lying to an investigator.  Four other people, including former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, are also charged with Involuntary Manslaughter.

Nick Lyon’s preliminary examination could take several days.  It will determine if he goes to trial and his fate decided by a jury. 

He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter. 

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