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Flint, MI– Genesee County District Court Judge William Crawford II said that in one week he will have a decision on whether or not to dismiss the charges against Former Gov. Rick Snyder for his involvement in the Flint water crisis.
Crawford announced this after hearing oral arguments virtually on March 9.
On Jan. 13, Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty for his involvement in the Flint water crisis. The counts are misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Two weeks later, Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon, made a motion for the judge to “quash,” or dismiss, the case for being filed in the “improper venue.” Lennon argued that the charges should be made in Lansing, where Snyder’s office was, rather than in Flint.
“Venue is where the crime occurred and not where the effects of the crime are felt,” Lennon said citing Michigan v. McBurrows.
“If it had been a situation where he’s in Flint, and he commits a crime in Flint, assaults somebody, no doubt,” Lennon said. “But a failure to act occurs at his seat of government.”
Assistant Attorney General Bryant Osikowicz argued that Genesee County is in fact the proper venue for the case.
“To conclude that the crime was committed in Ingham County simply because that is the scene of the state government ignores the realities of neglect of duties alleged in this case,” Osikowicz said. “In fact it ignores the realities of the defendant’s terms in office. The defendant did not confine his presence to the city limits of Lansing during his two terms as governor. He traveled throughout the state, the country, the world…”
Osikowicz argued that with cases where the crime is based on a failure to act, “venue is generally appropriate where the action should have been taken.”
Crawford questioned whether it was appropriate to be challenging the venue before giving the prosecution a chance to prove their venue at trial. Lennon said that since they have challenged the venue pretrial, “there could very well be a little mini hearing,” on venue prior to the trial.
Lennon said that once the venue has been challenged, “it’s on the government’s burden to establish it beyond a reasonable doubt, and they failed to do so.” Here he is referring to providing evidence from the grand jury transcripts that would be used to prove the venue should be in Genesee County.
Osikowicz said these transcripts are not yet available, and by asking the prosecution to provide this information, Lennon is “asking us…to ignore the law that dictates how grand juries are supposed to be run.”
Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud released a statement today commenting on Lennon’s arguments.
“Today’s hearing was one more attempt, in a series of miscalculations by the Snyder defense team, to disqualify and discredit the grand jury process. The grand jury is a secure and unbiased investigative tool used to determine if enough evidence exists to issue criminal indictments,” said Hammoud. “Today, Mr. Snyder’s lawyer tried to degrade the grand jury process, even going so far as to question the work of the grand juror, Judge David Newblatt. This shows just how far defense counsel is willing to go to deny justice to the people of Flint.”
Crawford said he would have a decision on whether or not to dismiss the charges in seven days.
The arguments can be watched here.