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Flint, MI– The Associated Press released a report that Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials, have been told they’re being charged in relation to the Flint water crisis.
According to AP, the attorney general’s office informed defense lawyers about the indictments in Flint and told them to expect to appear in court soon.
The details of the charges are not yet known, but Flint community members are glad they’re finally coming.
“Thank God,” said Executive Board Member with the Democracy Defense League Claudia Perkins in response to the news.
Fellow Water Warrior Claire McClinton called the news “a victory for people in the City of Flint.”
“We just can’t help but be relieved after the suffering we’ve done all these years. To see this finally come around is a great day,” she said.
Mayor Sheldon Neeley released a statement commending Attorney General Dana Nessel and her team “for their commitment to finding the truth and investigating all possible criminal activity.”
“These are the first steps in the final process to securing justice for our community…Our community has been through a tragedy it never should have faced, but Flint is strong and we will continue moving forward,” Neeley said.
Snyder was the governor in 2014, when state-appointed emergency managers in Flint switched the city’s water source to the Flint River to save money. The water was not properly treated, which resulted in the lead poisoning of close to 100,000 residents as well as a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon, released the following statement upon being informed that the Michigan Attorney General’s Office is planning to charge Snyder with crimes related to the water crisis: “It is outrageous to think any criminal charges would be filed against Gov. Snyder. Any charges would be meritless. Coming from an administration that claims to be above partisan politics, it is deeply disappointing to see pure political motivation driving charging decisions.”
Flint community members would have to disagree.
McClinton hopes the charges will be serious, and “not just a slap on the hand.”
Perkins said Snyder should be charged for “‘every person that died with Legionnaires’ disease.”
Councilman Eric Mays said he hoped charges against Snyder would include manslaughter and neglect.
“If you intentionally interfere with a government, and intentionally cover up legionnaires’, and you know that people didn’t put corrosion controls in the water…they should at least be charged with manslaughter, and charged with negligence,” Mays said. “And Rick Snyder ain’t the only one.”
According to the AP report, he won’t be.
Former Health Department Director Nick Lyon and a Former Senior Adviser Rich Baird, will also be charged.
Baird’s attorney, Randall Levine, released a statement saying Baird’s “relationship with the Flint community has always been strong,” and that “he worked tirelessly to try to help the people of Flint, where he lived and had an office.”
McClinton said if Snyder and others are seriously charged, it could look like “some semblance of justice.”
Representative for Michigan’s Fifth Congressional District Dan Kildee took to Twitter to express his support the investigation.
“What happened to the people of Flint is a terrible tragedy. Justice for Flint families comes in many forms, including holding state officials accountable for what they did to Flint,” Kildee said in a tweet. “While I never prejudge the outcome of any criminal charges, I support the Flint water crisis investigation following the facts, wherever they may lead. No one is above the law.”
But residents are looking for more than criminal charges to achieve justice.
“Justice is not just criminal prosecutions. It’s not just civil litigation,” Mays said. “It’s also the return of our independent water supply and getting us out of a fraudulent bond deal that we’re tied down to for the next 30 years. If we can tackle those appropriately, that will be what justice looks like.”
Mays said he thinks these criminal charges could impact the terms of the water lawsuit settlement, that he and other community activists have been protesting for months.
“Now, the civil suit on the table is not adequate, and they’re coming back with charges…at some point this could strengthen civil claims and raise the value on civil suits,” Mays said.
Perkins said although she’s glad there will be charges, it still won’t repair the damage that has been done.
“This community used to be flourishing, now it’s devastation,” Perkins said. “We’re still dealing with rashes, hair loss, broken immune systems, no schools in the city of Flint because he didn’t put anything back into our infrastructure.”
Local doctor and activist Dr. Kent Key said residents will believe it when they see it.
“Residents have stated several times in town halls and interviews that they didn’t want lower level government people to take the fall for the people at the top who really made the decisions,” Key said. “This may give residents hope that justice may be served, however until we see charges and convictions made, residents in Flint will not feel justified.”
Perkins said Snyder needs to be charged with “everything they can find,” and if he’s “not charged right,” she won’t be happy.