Defense strikes back in records dispute in Flint water case
Lawyers for Michigan’s former health director are firmly opposing an effort to put his Flint water criminal case on hold for six months, saying it’s a sign of “dysfunction” by prosecutors.
In blunt language, Nick Lyon’s defense team urged Judge Joseph Farah to reject a timeout and instead decide whether involuntary manslaughter charges will stick.
Lyon has been ordered to trial on charges related to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area in 2014-15. He’s accused of failing to timely inform the public about the outbreak, which has been tied to Flint’s use of the Flint River. Farah is considering an appeal.
The attorney general’s office said it wants a six-month stay so it can dig through 23 boxes of records found in the basement of a state building. But defense attorney Chip Chamberlain doubts the records are relevant to Lyon’s case. He also notes that prosecutors were aware of the boxes in February.
“The stay request is worse than meritless; the motion invites the court to rescue the prosecution from its own team’s dysfunction, all at the expense of Mr. Lyon, who has been vigorously proclaiming his innocence by diligently seeking relief from the courts,” Chamberlain said in a court filing.
He filed a response Monday, the same day the attorney general’s office announced the April 16 firing of special prosecutor Todd Flood, who for three years had led the investigation of Legionnaires’ and Flint’s lead-tainted water. Fifteen people have been charged ; seven have pleaded no contest to misdemeanors.
Flood, hired by a previous attorney general, fell out of favor after the election of Attorney General Dana Nessel. She put another attorney over him after taking office in January. Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud appeared to blame Flood for the cache of records.
But Flood said in a Monday statement to The Detroit News that he conducted the criminal cases with integrity.
"This complex case of official wrong-doing and betrayal of public trust has been prosecuted with the utmost attention to the professional standards that justice demands," the Royal Oak lawyer said. "I walk away knowing that I gave everything I had to give to this case. The people of Flint deserved nothing less."
Defense attorneys in a criminal case typically cry foul when learning that evidence hasn’t been timely shared by prosecutors. But Chamberlain doesn’t seem concerned about what’s in the boxes.
“What evidence is there that the boxes hold documents that are not merely duplicative of what (Flood) previously produced to the defense team? … And what possible ‘new’ evidence is there that would contradict the testimony of more than 20 witnesses over the course of 10 months to the District Court during the preliminary hearing?” Chamberlain and co-counsel John Bursch wrote.
Farah will hold a hearing Friday.
Detroit News Staff Writer Leonard N. Fleming contributed