FLINT, Mich. (NewsNation Now) — Lawyers for former Michigan governor Rick Snyder are citing possible conflicts about Flint residents serving as judges or jurors in his criminal case related to lead in the city’s drinking water.
Under the prosecutor’s theory of the case, all residents would be victims of Snyder’s alleged crimes, which could disqualify them from serving on his jury in 67th District Court, attorneys said.
Judge William Crawford II and other judges “should likely be recused” if they live in Flint and, like other residents, could get a share of a $641 million settlement in a separate civil lawsuit, Snyder’s legal team said in a letter Monday.
The pretrial hearing for Snyder is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Crawford wanted opinions before meeting with attorneys Tuesday. Snyder’s lawyers haven’t formally asked that he give up the case.
Snyder is charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. Snyder-appointed emergency managers switched Flint’s water supply to the Flint River in 2014, but the water wasn’t properly treated to reduce corrosion.
Lead from old pipes contaminated the system, though Snyder’s environmental agency repeatedly said the water was OK.
Eight other former officials, including the city’s former health director, were also indicted in January for their involvement in the water crisis. Many were former officials who worked in Snyder’s administration, which ran from 2011 to 2018.
“This is not some relic of the past, the people of Flint still suffer from the categorical failure of government at all levels,” said solicitor general Fadwa Hammoud, when announcing the indictments.
In a related case, Howard Croft, who was Flint’s public works director, said Crawford should recuse himself. Croft was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty in January.
Crawford said he has no bias and will let another judge decide. He said lead levels at his home were far below a risky level. Separately, Crawford said he has presided over lawsuits about power outages when he, too, lost power, even throwing out food from his freezer at least three times.
“It never crossed Judge Crawford’s mind to treat the power company any differently because of his personal experience with them,” Crawford told Croft on Feb. 19.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.