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Flint Water Crisis: Michigan Officials Charged with Manslaughter
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A woman displays the brown contaminated water in Flint. Photo courtesy of The Odyssey.

Summary: Michigan officials have been charged with involuntary manslaughter for a death caused by Flint’s contaminated water supply. 

The Flint water crisis is now in its fourth year, and those allegedly responsible now face involuntary manslaughter charges.

  
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According to The Washington Post, Attorney General Bill Schuette filed charges against Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Stephen Busch, a water supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; Darnell Earley, who had been a state-appointed emergency manager for Flint; Howard Croft, former director of the city’s public works department; and Liane Shekter-Smith, who served as chief of the state’s Office of Drinking Water.

Lyon is also being charged with felony misconduct in office. His attorney, Chip Chamberlain, called the charges “baseless.”

“We absolutely, vehemently dispute the charges. They are baseless,” Chamberlain said. “We intend to provide a vigorous defense of Mr. Lyon. We expect the justice system to vindicate him entirely.”

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Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive, is not facing manslaughter charges, but she is being accused of lying to a police officer and obstruction of justice. Although Wells was pivotal in alerting the governor about the problems in Flint, she allegedly tried to stop the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership from investigating the source of the city’s Legionnaire’s disease outbreak.

The Flint water crisis began when local officials changed their water source from Detroit to Flint.  Flint had paid Detroit for decades to have its water brought in from Lake Huron, but in 2014, the city switched to using Flint River water in an effort to save money. The water ended up being tainted with lead and turned a murky brown color. Thousands of people, including children, were exposed to long-term risks, which included Legionnaire’s disease.



According to documents obtained by the Detroit Free Press, Lyon was aware of the Legionnaire’s disease outbreak in 2015 but he did not tell the public for over a year. He allegedly said, “Everyone has to die of something.” Additionally, Lyon also refused help from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and stopped scientists from researching the Legionnaire’s disease cases. These alleged actions led to the 2015 death of Robert Skidmore, 85.

Governor Rick Snyder issued a statement, defending Lyon and Wells.

“Nick Lyon has been a strong leader at the Department of Health and Human Services for the past several years and remains completely committed to Flint’s recovery,” Snyder said. “Director Lyon and Dr. Eden Wells, like every other person who has been charged with a crime by Bill Schuette, are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Some state employees were charged over a year ago and have been suspended from work since that time. They still have not had their day in court. That is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged.”

The governor has also been under scrutiny by the public, who has called for him to be charged. Attorney General Schuette addressed the mounting pressure and said that so far there was not enough evidence to file.

“We only file criminal charges when evidence of probable cause to commit a crime has been established,” Schuette said. “We attempted to interview the governor. We were not successful.”

Since early 2016, Schuette has filed over 50 criminal charges against 15 state and local officials, and he has filed civil lawsuits against companies involved with the Flint water system.

Schuette told The Washington Post that his task force is continuously investigating the matter.

As of today, Flint’s drinking water is still contaminated.

Source: The Washington Post 

What do you think of Attorney General Schuette’s filing of charges against the Michigan officials? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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