The Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday that its Flint Water Crisis prosecution team is dismissing “without prejudice” all pending criminal cases brought by the former Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in order to conduct a full and complete investigation. The OSC was appointed by former Attorney General Bill Schuette.
The AG’s office said Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy will speak directly to the people of Flint at a “community conversation” scheduled for Friday, June 28.
Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy issued the following statement:
“Legitimate criminal prosecutions require complete investigations. Upon assuming responsibility of this case, our team of career prosecutors and investigators had immediate and grave concerns about the investigative approach and legal theories embraced by the OSC, particularly regarding the pursuit of evidence. After a complete evaluation, our concerns were validated. Contrary to accepted standards of criminal investigation and prosecution, all available evidence was not pursued. Instead, the OSC entered into agreements that gave private law firms—representing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Treasury, and the Executive Office of former Governor Rick Snyder—a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement.
“From the outset, our team seriously considered dismissal of all pending cases initiated by the OSC. However, we believed the people of Flint deserved expeditious action, despite the shortcomings of the OSC, and we worked to salvage whatever progress had been made. We were also mindful of the massive expenditure of public resources up to that point and sought to use taxpayer money as efficiently as possible. Nonetheless, we cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation. Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation.
“Our career prosecutors and investigators have worked around the clock to conduct the kind of criminal investigation to which all citizens are entitled, regardless of their zip code. That begins with a commitment to obtain and review all evidence. By executing a series of search warrants, our investigators aggressively pursued an extraordinary amount of potential evidence not previously examined by law enforcement. 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. 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.
“Our team has already identified additional individuals of interest and new information relevant to the Flint Water Crisis. These investigative leads will be aggressively pursued. Additionally, we will evaluate criminal culpability for all Legionnaires deaths that occurred after the switch to the Flint River, which was never done by the OSC.
“We understand this decision will not bring immediate remedy or relief to the citizens of Flint, who remain victims of one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in United States history. However, we recognize the only acceptable remedy is the vigorous pursuit of justice, which demands an uncompromising investigation of the Flint Water Crisis and professional prosecution of all those criminally culpable. Accordingly, our team will move forward unrestrained by political motivations, prior tactics, or opportunities for financial gain.”
Nessel issued the following statement:
“The depth and breadth of concern for a fair and just prosecution and justice for the people of Flint is precisely why I appointed and entrusted Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy to lead the Flint criminal cases. I trust them and if this step is necessary for them to do a comprehensive and complete investigation. I am in absolute support. I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied and a fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors and investigators are hard at work to ensure those who harmed you are held accountable.”
The decision frustrated many Flint residents and activists waiting for those responsible to face consequences.
Flint’s water crisis has been ongoing since April 2014, when the city’s drinking water source was switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The river water was not properly treated, causing lead to leach from pipes and fixtures, elevating levels of lead in the blood of Flint residents.
Former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who launched an investigation in 2016, said it was “staffed and conducted with the highest level of professionalism and expertise,” using an “experienced, aggressive and hard-driving team.”
The AG’s office said more details will be forthcoming regarding the planned town hall-style meeting with Flint residents on June 28.