Michigan's chief medical exec faces manslaughter trial ruling

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
Chief Medical Officer Eden Wells

A Flint judge will decide on Friday whether state Medical Executive Eden Wells will head to trial on involuntary manslaughter and other criminal charges related to the city's water crisis.

The 10 a.m. hearing before 67th District Court Judge William Crawford has been months in the making following 10 months of on-and-off testimony in the case brought by outgoing Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's special counsel Todd Flood.

Wells, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter related to the death of John Snyder, who prosecutors say died of Legionnaires' disease in 2015 while the city was drawing its water from the Flint River.

Special prosecutors argued that Wells should be bound over for trial because she "failed to prevent the danger" of the Legionnaires' outbreak, which killed 12 and sickened at least 79 others in the Flint area.

Prosecutors have linked the 2014-2015 outbreak to the Flint lead-contaminated water crisis, while defense attorneys have said many Legionnaires' cases could be traced to the water at a Flint hospital. In addition, the defense has argued that Wells didn't ascend to her state position until May 2015, well into the outbreak.

If Crawford sends Wells to face trial, it would be the third case headed to criminal court.

In August, state Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon was bound over for trial. District Judge David Goggins ruled that Lyon was "corrupt" in his handling of the Flint area Legionnaires' disease outbreak and will stand trial on felony charges including involuntary manslaughter. 

In January, former Flint Emergency Manager Gerald Ambrose waived his preliminary exam and headed straight to trial. Ambrose, who ran the day-to-day operations of Flint for the first four months of 2015 after being appointed by Snyder, is charged with committing false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses, 20-year felonies, as well as a charge of misconduct in office, a five-year felony, and a one-year misdemeanor count of willful neglect of duty. 

Wells is also facing charges of lying to a special police agent and obstruction of justice regarding the Legionnaires’ outbreak.


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