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Nine People, Including The Former Michigan Governor, Were Charged For Their Role In The Flint Water Crisis

Former Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with willful neglect of duty, and two high-ranking former state health officials face nine counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Last updated on January 14, 2021, at 1:17 p.m. ET

Posted on January 13, 2021, at 9:08 p.m. ET

Al Goldis / AP

Former Michigan governor Rick Snyder

Nine people, including the former Michigan governor, have been charged with crimes for their role in the Flint Water Crisis, the ongoing public health disaster sparked by a 2014 decision to change the source of the city's drinking water.

The former governor, Rick Snyder, was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty, each of which is punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine, the Michigan attorney general's office announced in the Thursday press conference.

Two of the charged, both high-ranking former officials from the state's health department, face the most severe charges. Nicolas Lyon, the department's former director, and Eden Wells, the former chief medical executive, were charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter, each individual count punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or $7,500 fine.

A full list of those indicted in the investigation and the charges they face is included at the end of this article.

“Pure and simple, this case is about justice, truth, accountability, poisoned children, lost lives, shattered families that are still not whole, and simply giving a damn about all of humanity," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who worked on the high-profile investigation, said in the Thursday press conference.

Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who also worked on the case, said the charged officials "evaded accountability for far too long."

“We may never know all the names of those who had their lives and livelihoods destroyed by this man-made crisis," Hammoud said. "And although the criminal justice system alone cannot remedy all the suffering that every person endured, we took our part seriously and we hope others will do the same to ensure that this never, ever happens again.”

The charges come nearly seven years after Flint stopped paying Detroit to tap into its Lake Huron water supply and began taking in water from the Flint River in an attempt to save money. However, the new water wasn't properly treated and immediately started to corrode the city's aging pipes, causing lead to leach into the supply.

As a result, the city's more than 100,000 residents were exposed to unsafe levels of lead, causing many to get sick and forcing the predominantly Black community to rely on bottled water. The change in the city's water source was also suspected as the possible cause of an outbreak in Legionnaires’ disease that sickened 90 people and killed 12.

Paul Sancya / AP

Genetha Campbell carries free water being distributed at the Lincoln Park United Methodist Church in Flint, Michigan, in February 2015.

While testifying before Congress in 2016, Snyder called the disaster "a failure of government at all levels." Emails released early that year showed the governor's staff had been alerted to the possible connection between an increase in the waterborne respiratory disease and the switch to the Flint River 10 months before he alerted the public to the lead contamination.

Snyder has maintained that he didn't know about the high levels of lead in the water until October 2015. Several other government officials resigned as a result of the crisis, and more than a dozen were charged in criminal cases that were either settled through plea deals or later dropped.

According to the Associated Press, the charges filed by Michigan's attorney general on Wednesday mark the first time in the state's history that a governor has been charged with crimes related to their time in office.

Here is the full list of the people indicted in the Flint Water crisis and what they're charged with:

  • Jarrod Agen – Former Director of Communications and Former Chief of Staff, Executive Office of Gov. Rick Snyder
    • One count of perjury – a 15-year felony
  • Gerald Ambrose – Former City of Flint Emergency Manager
    • Four counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • Richard Baird – Former Transformation Manager and Senior Adviser, Executive Office of Gov. Snyder
    • One count of perjury – a 15-year felony
    • One count of official misconduct in office – a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
    • One count of obstruction of justice – a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
    • One count of extortion – a 20-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • Howard Croft – Former Director of the City of Flint Department of Public Works
    • Two counts of willful neglect of duty – each a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine
  • Darnell Earley – Former City of Flint Emergency Manager
    • Three counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • Nicolas Lyon – Former Director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
    • Nine counts of involuntary manslaughter – each a 15-year felony and/or $7,500 fine
    • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine
  • Nancy Peeler – Current Early Childhood Health Section Manager, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
    • Two counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
    • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine
  • Richard Snyder – Former Governor of Michigan
    • Two counts of willful neglect of duty – each a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine
  • Eden Wells – Former Chief Medical Executive, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
    • Nine counts of involuntary manslaughter – each a 15-year felony and/or $7,500 fine
    • Two counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
    • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine

CORRECTION

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's name was misspelled in a previous of this article.

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