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Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Filed in Flint Case
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that he has charged six people in connection with the Flint water crisis, including charges of involuntary manslaughter against Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Nick Lyon, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, and also Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch. They're charged with involuntary manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act in the crisis; involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $7,500 fine, according to the announcement.
Schuette also charged Lyon with Misconduct in Office, a felony subject to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, and MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells has been charged with lying to a peace officer and obstruction of justice related to an alleged attempt to stop an investigation into the health crisis in Flint and later misleading investigators.
Schuette was joined in making the announcement of the charges by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Flint Water Investigation Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, and Chief Investigator Andrew Arena.
More than a dozen people now have been charged in the case, and pre-trial hearings and other legal proceedings are occurring; Schuette also released the initial results of the more than yearlong investigation, including a review of the facts and evidence in the case.
"Multiple Flint-area residents died of Legionnaires' disease in the time immediately following the switch from Detroit Water and Sewer Department to the Flint River. All defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter are charged in relation to the death of Robert Skidmore, 85, of Mt. Morris, Michigan," according to the announcement, which says Skidmore died on Dec. 13, 2015: "Skidmore died of Legionnaires' disease after many others had been diagnosed with the illness, yet no public outbreak notice had been issued. The charges allege failure to notify and lack of action to stop the outbreak allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint's water system."
It says Lyon, as director of MDHHS, "has a duty to protect public health. The investigation has shown that Lyon allegedly received notice of a deadly Legionnaires' Disease outbreak in Genesee County nearly one year before he informed the public. After being informed about a potentially fatal health risk, Lyon allegedly deliberately failed to inform the public of a deadly Legionnaires' Disease outbreak, which resulted in the death of Robert Skidmore. Furthermore, Lyon allegedly participated in covering up the source of Genesee County's Legionnaires' Disease outbreak by repeatedly attempting to prevent an independent researcher from looking into the cause of the outbreak."
It also says Wells "has a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of Michigan residents. During the course of the investigation of the Flint Water Crisis, it is alleged that Wells attempted to withhold funding for programs designed to help the victims of the crisis, and then lied to an investigator about material facts related to the investigation."
Busch, who was the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality District 8 Water Supervisor, could have ordered the Flint Water Treatment Plant to be shut down "because it was not producing safe water," it states." In January of 2015, Busch was made aware of the Legionnaires' Disease outbreak, yet he allegedly represented to the public that Flint's drinking water was safe." It says Busch was previously charged with felony Misconduct in Office, Tampering with Evidence, Conspiracy to Tamper with Evidence, and two misdemeanor counts for both a treatment and monitoring violation of the Michigan Safe Water Drinking Act.