Former Michigan governor cleared of indictments in Flint water scandal, rules state Supreme Court

Former GOP Gov. Rick Snyder and seven others were cleared of their indictments.

Updated: June 28, 2022 - 1:17pm

Michigan's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that charges against former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the Flint water scandal were void because the issuing judge had no authority to indict in the first place.

The decision by the court also clears Snyder's health director and seven others from charges that stemmed from the lead-contaminated water that plagued Flint's water system from 2014-15.

Judges in Michigan, though allowed to "investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants," do not have the authority to "issue indictments," ruled the court in a 6-0 opinion.

The defeat was a shocking loss for state Attorney General Dana Nessel, who assumed office in 2019 and immediately assembled a new team to investigate whether crimes were committed when lead contamination was found in the Flint water system.

To obtain indictments, Nessel's team used the rarely employed method of turning to a one-judge grand jury.

Flint managers appointed by Snyder swapped the city's water source to the Flint River, which regulators said didn't need treatment to reduce its corrosive qualities. Lead from old pipes flowed through the system for a year-and-a-half in the primarily black city.

Snyder was initially charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect.

Ex-health chief Nick Lyon and Michigan's former chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells were charged with involuntary manslaughter for nine deaths related to Legionnaires' disease, which occurred because the water system likely lacked enough chlorine to combat river bacteria.

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