Michigan Attorney General's office drops all pending Flint Water Crisis criminal cases, pending further investigation

Flint, Michigan still dealing with water crisis
Posted at 1:57 PM, Jun 13, 2019
and last updated 2021-01-14 14:01:02-05

(WXYZ) — The Michigan Attorney General's office announced Thursday that they have dismissed all pending criminal cases connected to the Flint Water Crisis that were brought by the former Office of Special Counsel.

It is important to note that the cases are being dropped without prejudice and that charges could be brought against the defendants again.

The AG's office says the cases are being dropped so that a "full and complete investigation" can be conducted.

Attorney General Dana Nessel issued the following statement:

The depth and breadth of concern for a fair and just prosecution and justice for the people of Flint is precisely why I appointed and entrusted Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy to lead the Flint criminal cases. I trust them and if this step is necessary for them to do a comprehensive and complete investigation. I am in absolute support.

I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied and a fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors and investigators are hard at work to ensure those who harmed you are held accountable.

Officials will not comment any further, until Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy speak with the people of Flint directly. That has been scheduled for Friday, June 28.

Hammoud and Wrothy issued the following statement in a press release:

Legitimate criminal prosecutions require complete investigations. Upon assuming responsibility of this case, our team of career prosecutors and investigators had immediate and grave concerns about the investigative approach and legal theories embraced by the OSC, particularly regarding the pursuit of evidence. After a complete evaluation, our concerns were validated. Contrary to accepted standards of criminal investigation and prosecution, all available evidence was not pursued. Instead, the OSC entered into agreements that gave private law firms—representing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Treasury, and the Executive Office of former Governor Rick Snyder—a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement.

From the outset, our team seriously considered dismissal of all pending cases initiated by the OSC. However, we believed the people of Flint deserved expeditious action, despite the shortcomings of the OSC, and we worked to salvage whatever progress had been made. We were also mindful of the massive expenditure of public resources up to that point and sought to use taxpayer money as efficiently as possible. Nonetheless, we cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation. Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation.

Our career prosecutors and investigators have worked around the clock to conduct the kind of criminal investigation to which all citizens are entitled, regardless of their zip code. That begins with a commitment to obtain and review all evidence. By executing a series of search warrants, our investigators aggressively pursued an extraordinary amount of potential evidence not previously examined by law enforcement. This week, we completed the transfer into our possession millions of documents and hundreds of new electronic devices, significantly expanding the scope of our investigation. Our team’s efforts have produced the most comprehensive body of evidence to date related to the Flint Water Crisis. We are now in the best possible position to find the answers the citizens of Flint deserve and hold all responsible parties accountable.

Our team has already identified additional individuals of interest and new information relevant to the Flint Water Crisis. These investigative leads will be aggressively pursued. Additionally, we will evaluate criminal culpability for all Legionnaires deaths that occurred after the switch to the Flint River, which was never done by the OSC.

It is important to note that this voluntary dismissal by our team is not a determination of any defendant’s criminal responsibility. We are not precluded from refiling charges against the defendants listed below or adding new charges and additional defendants.

We understand this decision will not bring immediate remedy or relief to the citizens of Flint, who remain victims of one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in United States history. However, we recognize the only acceptable remedy is the vigorous pursuit of justice, which demands an uncompromising investigation of the Flint Water Crisis and professional prosecution of all those criminally culpable. Accordingly, our team will move forward unrestrained by political motivations, prior tactics, or opportunities for financial gain.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, who represents Flint issued the following statement about the dropping of the charges:

Let me be clear: I want to see people behind bars. Words cannot express how disappointed I am that justice continues to be delayed and denied to the people of my city. Months of investigation have turned into years, and the only thing to show for it is a bunch of lawyers who have gotten rich off the taxpayers’ dime. The people of Flint believe that they will never see justice, and sadly, so far they’ve been proven right. I hope and expect that this will not be the case for much longer, but until then, I will continue to fight for my city and hold people accountable.”

Former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette responded to the news by saying that the previous investigations were all "staffed staffed and conducted with the highest level of professionalism and expertise."

His full statement, which went out in a series of Tweets Thursday, goes on to say, "During my tenure as Attorney General, the department initiated three major investigations: Nassar, the Catholic Church and the Flint Water Crisis.

All three were staffed and conducted with the highest level of professionalism and expertise.

In addition to my contributions as Michigan’s Atrorney General, the Office of Special Counsel investigating the Flint Water Crisis utilized the expertise of Todd Flood, an experienced Wayne County Prosecutor, Andy Arena, the former head of the FBI in Detroit, Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney David Leyton, Judge Bill Whitbeck and Judge David Hoort.

Combined, the team brought more than 200 years of legal experience to bear on the Flint investigation.

The Office of Special Counsel brought 59 charges against 15 individuals. The OSC won five convictions. In addition, the OSC’s cases against Nick Lyon and Eden Wells were successfully bound over for trial and the Office of Special Counsel was fully prepared to try both cases.

We had an experienced, aggressive and hard-driving team. Everything we did was for the people of Flint."

The decision affects all of the following cases:

People v. Gerald Ambrose, 18-042559-FH
People v. Patrick Cook, 16TC1685
People v. Howard Croft, 16TC2850
People v. Darnell Earley, 16TB2850
People v. Nicolas Lyon, 18-043836-FH
People v. Nancy Peeler, 16TD1685
People v. Robert Scott, 16TE1685
People v. Eden Wells, 18-044241-FH