Schuette mounts new defense of Flint investigation

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Wednesday that Gov. Rick Snyder is not being charged with any crimes related to the Flint’s lead-contaminated water but left the door open to the possibility.

Former Attorney General Bill Schuette mounted a counter-offensive about his handling of the Flint water crisis investigation, defending it this week as having been conducted with "no fear or favoritism" to get "justice for the families of Flint."

In a commentary written for the Flint Journal/MLive, the Republican who lost the gubernatorial race to Democrat Gretchen Whitmer took aim at criticism from Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and other officials who contended Schuette and others played politics with the investigation and presented shoddy cases.

Earlier this month, state Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud dismissed all criminal charges against eight state and Flint defendants, including former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and former Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells. Lyon, Wells and two other officials had been charged with involuntary manslaughter. 

Hammoud said the Attorney General's office may well refile criminal charges and bring charges against new defendants after rebooting the investigation. 

"The Flint Water Crisis case is NOT about politics or who is the governor or who is the attorney general or who are the defendants," Schuette wrote. "I put together an experienced review team with courtroom experience and solid, impeccable credentials."

Among his team were Special Prosecutor Todd Flood — a private attorney — and former Detroit FBI Director Andy Arena, both of whom were let go by Nessel. The cases were reviewed and assisted by Genese County Prosecutor David Leyton, a Democrat, and two retired state judges.

Hammoud said she and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy have discovered new information and new persons of interest in the Flint investigation, including for the 2014-15 Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Flint region that killed at least 12 and sickened another 79 individuals. 

Prosecutors had “immediate and grave concerns” regarding the investigation when Nessel's office took over the probe in January because "all available evidence was not pursued,” Hammoud and Worthy said in a statement. 

But Schuette countered in the commentary that "Charging decisions were always made with painstaking thoroughness. When the evidence matched the elements of a crime and the jury instructions, then charges were filed."

The probe, which began in January 2016, is "ONLY about families of Flint," he wrote.

"For too long, citizens and families of Flint have been marginalized, victims of the global economy and shirking manufacturing in Michigan," he said. "People learned that lead was in the drinking water because an anti-corrosive to coat the lead pipes and protect from lead leaching into the water supply was NOT added to the water."

The result, Schuette said, was that 12 people died and "thousands of children were poisoned."

Schuette first defended his investigation in a series of Tweets after Nessel's team dismissed the charges on June 13, including those against Lyon and Wells, who were already headed to trial if appeals failed.

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