Former Wayne County prosecutor to take lead on Flint water prosecutions
The state’s new solicitor general will take lead on the state’s criminal cases related to the Flint water crisis, including the prosecution of involuntary manslaughter charges against two former high-ranking Snyder officials.
Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday Fadwa Hammoud’s appointment as solicitor general, making her the first Muslim Arab American to achieve that post in the country. Hammoud is a former lead attorney at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
Flint Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, who was appointed by Republican former Attorney General Bill Schuette, will report to Hammoud. He successfully convinced 67th District Court judges to bind over for trial former Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and former Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells on criminal charges related to 2014-15 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 individuals and sickened at least 79 others.
Schuette’s personal supervision of Flood prevented him from engaging in the civil cases related to Flint, Nessel said. Both the civil and criminal cases have continued for years and cost taxpayers millions, she said.
“We don’t prescribe to the idea of prosecution for profit in this office,” Nessel said in a a statement. “I have worked closely with Ms. Hammoud as a prosecutor and trust her to make the right decisions and take the proper steps to ensure justice for the people of Flint. This department has spent millions of dollars on these cases, and our state residents deserve assurance that these cases are handled properly.”
On Tuesday, Flood praised Hammoud.
“Fadwa is a great person and an excellent lawyer who will serve the people of state and Flint very well,” Flood said. “I look forward to working with her.”
Schuette’s position overseeing Flood has remained empty since the turn of the year because Nessel was uncomfortable with the conflicts associated with the role, said Nessel's spokeswoman Kelly Rossman McKinney. Hammoud’s appointment allows Nessel to remain “above the conflict wall” by avoiding a direct role in either the criminal or civil cases.
“For now, (Flood) will report to the solicitor general,” Rossman McKinney said. “She’ll be in court with him tomorrow to watch, listen and learn.”
Special prosecutors will be in 67th District Court for the resumption of the preliminary exam of Patrick Cook, a Department of Environmental Quality water treatment engineer who is accused of misconduct in office, conspiracy to engage in misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty for allegedly manipulating a Lead and Copper Rule report on the levels of lead in Flint’s water.
There have been talks about a possible plea deal for Cook.
In early January, Nessel asked Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to review the Flint criminal cases, and Worthy was expected to make recommendations regarding the future of the prosecution, including Flood's future as special prosecutor.
Hammoud’s appointment to the case does not interrupt the review of the prosecutions being conducted by Worthy, Rossman McKinney said. The review is ongoing and could influence the future of the cases and who leads them, she said.
Since Worthy and Hammoud worked together in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, “there’s a trusting relationship already established,” Rossman McKinney said.
Worthy declined additional comment on the review, but praised Nessel’s appointment of Hammoud to the cases, calling it a “bittersweet” moment for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
“Attorney General Nessel’s appointment of Fadwa Hammoud to serve as Michigan’s next solicitor general is a brilliant choice,” Worthy said in a statement. “She is a visionary with an excellent work ethic.”
Staff Writer Leonard N. Fleming contributed