Ex-Michigan Governor Catches Big Break in Flint Case

Judge dismisses criminal charges against Rick Snyder, 8 years after water issues began
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 10, 2022 11:30 AM CST
Criminal Charges Dropped Against Ex-Gov for Flint Crisis
Then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is seen at the state Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, on Jan. 23, 2018.   (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

A judge dismissed criminal charges against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in the Flint water crisis, months after the state Supreme Court said indictments returned by a one-person grand jury were invalid. Snyder, a Republican who left office in 2019, had been charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. He was the first person in state history to be charged for alleged crimes related to service as governor, per the AP. Snyder also is the eighth person to have a Flint water case thrown out after the Supreme Court's unanimous June opinion. Genesee County Judge F. Kay Behm signed the order Wednesday, a day after the US Senate approved her nomination to become a federal judge in eastern Michigan.

"The charges against [Snyder] were not properly brought and must be dismissed at this time," Behm wrote, sending the case to a lower court for the final step, weeks after hearing arguments. In response, prosecutors in the Democratic-led attorney general's office said it will add the result to other appeals. "Rulings up to this point have been on process alone, not on the merits of the case,” prosecutors said. "We are confident that the evidence clearly supports the criminal charges against Rick Snyder, and we will not stop until we have exhausted all possible legal options to secure justice for the people of Flint." Prosecutors could try to rerun the case with new charges, but any effort might encounter a six-year statute of limitations.

Flint's water became tainted with lead after city managers appointed by Snyder began using the Flint River in 2014 to save money while a new pipeline to Lake Huron was built. The water wasn't treated to reduce its corrosive qualities, causing lead to break off from old pipes and contaminate the system for more than a year. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission said it was the result of systemic racism, doubting that the water switch and the brush-off of complaints in the majority-Black city would have occurred in a white, prosperous community. Flint residents complained about the water's smell, taste, and appearance, raising health concerns and reporting rashes, hair loss, and other problems. Snyder didn't acknowledge that lead was a problem until 17 months after the water switch, in fall 2015, when he pledged to take action.

story continues below

He agreed that state government had botched the water switch, especially regulators who didn't require certain treatments. But his defense team denies that Snyder's conduct rose to the level of any crime. Only one case remains pending in the water scandal, which not only exposed children to toxic lead but was blamed for deaths linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease: A former Flint public works official, Howard Croft, still has misdemeanors pending with a different judge. Activists who believe crimes were committed are frustrated that no one has been locked up, and the attorney general's office has desperately tried to keep the cases alive but so far has lost at every turn. It's trying to persuade the appeals court to intervene and somehow reverse the decision, despite the findings of the state Supreme Court.

(More Flint water crisis stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.