Wayne County's Kettler expected to join state's Flint prosecution team
The Michigan Attorney General office's plans to beef up the legal firepower for its Flint water prosecution team by adding a longtime Wayne County assistant prosecutor who has worked on high-profile cases, according to three sources familiar with the decision.
Molly Kettler is expected to join the team now led by Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who promised last month to strengthen the special prosecution team created by former Attorney Bill Schuette to hold government officials accountable for the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint.
It is unclear what role Kettler would play on a team with now-Special Assistant Attorney General Todd Flood, the former Flint special prosecutor appointed by Schuette whose power was cut by Attorney General Dana Nessel after she took office. It's part of Nessel and Hammoud's efforts to have more oversight over the process.
In February, the attorney general and Hammoud, who both used to work for Worthy, asked the Wayne County prosecutor to help beef up the prosecution's team.
"We can neither confirm nor deny" that Kettler is joining the prosecution's team, said Dan Olsen, an Attorney General's office spokesman.
Nessel asked Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to review the Flint water prosecution cases, which have included the binding over for trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter for former Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and former Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells. Lyon and Wells were accused of committing this and other crimes in the 2014-15 Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Flint region that ended up killing at least 12 people and sickening another 79 individuals.
Courtroom foes praised Kettler, including a criminal defense attorney who has sparred with her over 20-plus years and called her a "first-class trial lawyer."
"She's a zealous advocate for the prosecutor's office as well as anybody I've encountered," said David Cripps, who has a law firm with his wife called Cripps & Silver. "She is smart on her feet. She's well prepared and puts her blood into a case."
When she works on cases, Kettler "really takes up the cause," which is a perfect fit for the Flint water cases, Cripps said. While fierce competitors, he said he has been "thoroughly impressed" by her legal work.
"I think she's a great choice," he said. "Not only does she have the skills set to do it, but she also has the energy level to do it. Obviously, it's not a 9-to-5 job to her; it's a seven-days-a-week job."
Kettler has handled high-profile cases. In 2012, she won convictions and life sentences for three men and lengthy prison time for two others in the murders of two Hamtramck women.
Last year, Kettler won a sentence of 40-75 years in prison for Marquise Cromer, who was convicted of fatally shooting Detroit Police Sgt. Kenneth Steil in 2016.
She began at the Wayne County Prosecutor's office in October 1999 and was assigned to the Trial Division, later the homicide unit and most recently was tapped as a principal attorney in the Public Integrity Unit, county officials confirmed.
Two weeks ago, Kettler, Nessel and Hammoud attended a multi-faith service at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn to honor the victims in the March 15 mass shootings at two New Zealand mosques.
The arrangement for Kettler working on the Flint cases could be a swap between the Wayne County prosecutor and Attorney General's offices, one source said. A lawyer with Attorney General's office might be asked to handle Kettler's caseload while she works with the Flint team.
Lillian Diallo, who has a defense law firm in Detroit called Legal Warriors and has faced Kettler, said "she is a real prosecutor" and is "a true believer in whatever cause she undertakes."
"There are going to be some tough questions that will be asked," Diallo said. "And answers better cut mustard and, if they don't, oh well."
Prior to Nessel's involvement, Flood had struck plea deals with six defendants, but several cases have been adjourned, including the involuntary manslaughter case against former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.
Last month in a Lansing news conference, Nessel said she will handle and look to settle Flint civil lawsuits as Hammoud oversees the criminal cases.
Staff Writer Oralandar Brand-Williams contributed.