Judge needs more time over proper venue dispute in Flint water case

Midwest

FILE – In this Jan. 23, 2018, file photo, then, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. A pretrial hearing is scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, for Snyder, who is accused of two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Mich., and a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A judge overseeing misdemeanor charges against a former Michigan governor in the Flint water scandal said Tuesday he’s struggling with how to handle an aggressive effort to have the case dismissed.

Judge William Crawford II said he needs more time to research whether prosecutors filed the case against a former Michigan governor in the wrong county.

As a District Court judge, Crawford said he doesn’t know if he can make a decision about the work of a Circuit Court judge who served as a one-man grand jury and returned an indictment against Rick Snyder.

“Don’t remember that in law school. Don’t remember that on the bar exam, either. … This is all new to me,” Crawford said.

He asked lawyers on both sides to submit more briefs and return to court next Tuesday.

Lawyers for Rick Snyder want two misdemeanor charges to be dismissed. They argue that Snyder worked in Ingham County, not Genesee County, so the indictment returned by a one-man grand jury in Flint should not stand.

Snyder, a Republican, is charged with willful neglect of duty. Emergency managers who were appointed by Snyder to run Flint switched the city’s water source to the Flint River in 2014-15 while a new pipeline was being built from Lake Huron.

The river water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion, resulting in lead contamination from old pipes. While residents complained about skunky water, Snyder’s environmental agency insisted the water was safe until a doctor in 2015 reported elevated lead levels in children.

Separately, the water was blamed for a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The catastrophe in the impoverished, majority-Black city has been described as an example of environmental injustice and racism.

“The indictments are sound. … It is incoherent to suggest that breaching a duty owed to the people of a particular city does not entail a sufficient connection to that city to establish venue there,” prosecutors said last week in a response to Snyder’s motion.

But if Genesee is not the right county, then the case should be transferred to Ingham and not dismissed, prosecutors said.

Snyder was one of nine people charged in January. Two people who were senior health officials in his administration were charged with involuntary manslaughter for nine deaths linked to Legionnaires’ disease.

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