Prosecutors dropping all charges against 8 people in the Flint water crisis

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FLINT, MI (WILX) Prosecutors say they're dismissing all criminal charges against eight people in the Flint water scandal and starting the investigation over again.

Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy have been leading the investigation since Dana Nessel became Attorney General. They say they immediately had "grave concerns" over how the case was handled under the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) appointed by former Attorney General Bill Schuette. Fadwa and Worthy released a statement saying the OSC failed to pursue all available evidence. They say the OSC allowed private law firms to determine which information would be turned over to prosecutors. Those law firms represented the Executive Office of former Governor Rick Snyder, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The investigation is not finished, it's expanding. Worthy and Hammoud say investigators recently obtained millions of new documents and hundreds of electronic devices. Because the charges have been dismissed without prejudice they could be refiled at any time. New charges could be brought against the 8 suspects and new suspects could be charged in the case.

The eight people include former Michigan health director Nick Lyon. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty, accused of failing to timely inform the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease when Flint was using improperly treated water from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015.

The outbreak occurred at the same time that the city's water system was contaminated with lead.

Lyon was the highest-ranking official to be charged in the investigation. The other suspects are:

- Gerald Ambrose; former Flint emergency manager; charged with misconduct in office, false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, willful neglect of duty

- Eden Wells; Department of Health and Human Services chief medical executive; charged with involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice, lying to a peace officer

- Patrick Cook; DEQ Drinking Water Unit specialist; charged with misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty, conspiracy

- Howard Croft; Flint water system manager; charged with false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses

- Darnell Earley; former Flint emergency manager; charged with misconduct in office, false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, willful neglect of duty

- Nancy Peeler; director of the Program for Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting for the Department of Health and Human Services; charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy, willful neglect of duty

- Robert Scott; data manager for the Healthy Homes and Lead Prevention program for the Department of Health and Human Services; charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy, willful neglect of duty

The charges are being dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled and other defendants could be charged as well.

Attorney General Dana Nessel released the following statement about the decision to dismiss charges:

“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.”

The Attorney General said her office will not respond to any media inquiries until after Worthy and Hammoud "have had an opportunity to speak directly to the people of Flint."

Congressman Dan Kildee provided this statement: “Flint families deserve justice. Justice for Flint comes in many forms, including holding government officials who created this man-made crisis accountable. The Attorney General’s office should aggressively continue its investigations and pursue criminal charges, supported by the facts and evidence, against any individual criminally responsible. I support holding accountable any official who caused this water crisis to happen to Flint.”

And Rep. Sheldon Neely (D-Flint) said this: “At this point we’re not talking in weeks or months but in years that have been lost, not in hundreds or thousands, but in millions of dollars that have been wasted. We’ve been told to wait, to be patient, that justice was coming, but where is that justice today? My city is losing faith in our government, and that distrust was justified today when it once again failed them so miserably. How many insults will the people of Flint have to suffer before our pain is taken seriously? I’m not going to rest until everyone involved is held accountable, and justice is truly served. I and the residents of Flint truly hope the Attorney General’s office will finally join us in this fight.”

And Sen.Jim Ananich (D-Flint) released this statement: “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.”

Copyright 2019 WILX. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.