FLINT, MI — Leaders of the Flint water crisis prosecution team say millions of documents and evidence hadn’t been entered into the initial investigation calling for an expansion.
Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, the leaders of the state’s Flint water crisis prosecution team, came to Flint on June 28 to explain their recent decision to dismiss all pending criminal cases related to the water crisis while they launch an expanded investigation.
Hammoud and Worthy announced the dismissals two weeks ago via a press release, citing “grave concerns” about how the investigation was handled during former Attorney General Bill Schuette’s time in office but declined to speak with media about the decision until they spoke directly with Flint residents.
Schuette wrote in an op-ed published in the Flint Journal that he “assembled teams of skilled lawyers with courtroom experience and top-notch investigators to determine the truth and provide justice for citizens of our state.”
During the investigation run by former Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, Hammoud said that only 1% of millions of documents related to the water crisis had been received, many of them heavily redacted. Hammoud said that they have now received all of the documents in their original form.
Additionally, Hammoud said that only five devices had been investigated under the previous administration, while the team now has more than 600 devices.
“The easy route would have been to stick with that one percent if we cared about speed,” Hammoud said. “But quite frankly, what happened in Flint and the people of Flint deserve a lot more than what you see there.”
“When we looked at this information, I had never seen anything like it,” Worthy said. “It just didn’t make sense to me the way things had been done.”
While they could not comment on the specific details of their investigation, Worthy said that they have received new information that is “absolutely” relevant.
“We can’t just do what we want to do. We can’t just do what we think. We have to be able to take these cases and go to court and win them,” Worthy said. “So that’s why we’re being deliberate, we’re being responsible, we’re being complete, we’re being thorough.”
Some residents were left unconvinced by the explanation.
“You really, really did a lot to destroy a lot of trust,” said Laura MacIntyre. “You need us on your side, we need you on our side, we need to be together as a team. You’ve got to do something to repair that trust of making that announcement without having the communication.”
Others were more open to the explanation offered by the team.
“I want to say to our community, certainly we have been hurting, but we should have beat Todd Flood up this way, too,” another resident said. “What I want our community to do is give this team an opportunity, because you gave Flood one.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is handling the civil litigation related to the Flint water crisis, did not attend the meeting but released a statement before it began.
“I appointed Fadwa and Kym with two goals: 1) hold any wrongdoers accountable for their actions, and 2) ensure the integrity of their work so that the residents of Flint could trust the process,” Nessel said in the statement. “In the end, Fadwa and Kym don’t work for me; they work for the residents of Flint, they work for the people. And they are in Flint tonight to answer the many questions I know people have of them and the work they are doing.”
“Because I am working on the civil cases, I am screened off from all of the work being done by Fadwa and Kym. That means I know what the residents of Flint know – when they know it,” Nessel continued. “Ethical rules severely limit what I can say about the civil cases and, unfortunately, they also prevent me from having a direct conversation with the people of Flint. I literally cannot talk to them about their cases without their attorneys present. To do so would jeopardize not only the civil cases but the criminal cases as well. As a result, I cannot be there with the people of Flint tonight.”
Hammoud offered her takeaways from the event during a scrum with reporters after the event.
“They didn’t want this to be something of the past. They want to make sure that this is something that everybody knows is still present,” Hammoud said. “We heard all their voices; their anger, their good words, everything.”