Flint, MI— Former top aide to ex-Gov. Rick Snyder Richard Baird was charged with four felonies for his role in the Flint water crisis alongside Snyder and seven others in a series of court arraignments held at the Genesee County Jail on Thursday.
Baird, who grew up in Flint, was put in charge of Flint’s recovery efforts. He was charged with perjury during an investigative subpoena interview, misconduct, obstruction of justice and extortion.
His lawyer Randall Levine said Baird is innocent.
“This man is an honorable man. And I’m proud to stand here next to him and represent him, because when the evidence becomes known in this case, he will be vindicated. This man has done nothing wrong. He will be acquitted,” Levine told reporters as he exited the courthouse.
VICE, a news and culture website, performed a year-long investigation into the water crisis and obtained a transcript of Baird’s investigative subpoena interview. In it, prosecutors were investigating alleged attempts by Baird to pay off sick Flint residents in order to keep them silenced.
These payoffs included state-funded medical treatment, Medicaid, and home repairs for pipes and water heaters damaged by lead.
But Levine said Baird only helped Flint.
“When the Flint water crisis hit, he raised his hand and volunteered to come here. And he took an apartment here. And he worked tirelessly for the people of Flint to help them overcome the crisis. He worked with community, he went to houses and changed pipes. He got tax credits for these folks,” Levine said.
Baird faces up to 15 years in prison for perjury, and up to five years or a $10,000 fine for misconduct. He may see a penalty of five years in prison and or a $10,000 fine for obstruction, and up to 20 years and or a $10,000 fine for extortion.
“[The charges] are ridiculous. They’re without merit. This is a political prosecution by a democratic administration that’s looking to make gains. It’s not going to happen. We’re not going to stand for it,” Levine said.
Baird’s next court date will be Feb. 18th at 3 p.m.