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'Stunning' Reversal in Flint Water Crisis

Prosecutors drop charges, vow fresh probe
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 13, 2019 3:00 PM CDT
In this Aug. 20, 2018, file photo, Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, listens closely as Genesee District Judge David J. Goggins gives his decision during Lyon's...   (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

(Newser) – Prosecutors dropped all criminal charges Thursday against eight people in the Flint water crisis and pledged to start from scratch the investigation into one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in US history. The stunning decision comes more than three years—and millions of dollars—after authorities began examining the roots of a scandal that left Flint's water system tainted with lead. Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who took control of the investigation in January after the election of a new attorney general, said "all available evidence was not pursued" by a previous team of prosecutors, the AP reports. "This week, we completed the transfer into our possession millions of documents and hundreds of new electronic devices, significantly expanding the scope of our investigation," Hammoud and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. "Our team's efforts have produced the most comprehensive body of evidence to date related to the Flint water crisis. We are now in the best possible position to find the answers the citizens of Flint deserve and hold all responsible parties accountable," they said.

Hammoud's team recently used search warrants to get state-owned mobile devices of former Gov. Rick Snyder and 66 other people from storage. Among those who had charges dismissed: Michigan's former health director, Nick Lyon, who was accused of involuntary manslaughter for allegedly failing to timely alert the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease when Flint was drawing improperly treated water from the Flint River in 2014-15. Lyon's attorney, Chip Chamberlain, said they "feel fantastic and vindicated." Although prosecutors cautioned that Lyon and others could be charged again, Chamberlain said he's not worried. "We're confident that a just and fair investigation, done properly, will yield no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing," Chamberlain said. Flint's water no longer comes from the river and has significantly improved, but some residents are so distrustful that they continue to use bottled water. No one is behind bars. Seven of 15 people charged pleaded no contest to misdemeanors. Their records will eventually be scrubbed clean.

(Read more Flint, Michigan stories.)

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