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Officials charged in Flint water crisis back in court this week, 2 years after first indictments

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steve carmody
Michigan Radio

It has been nearly two years since the first indictments were handed down in the state's investigation into the Flint water crisis.

15 current and former state and city government officials were charged.

Read more: These are the 15 people charged for their connection to the Flint water crisis

Four of those cut plea deals. Ever since last fall, Special Counsel Todd Flood has been methodically laying out his case against the remaining eleven.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody joined Stateside to give an update on where things stand.

Listen to the interview above, or read highlights below:

On the kinds of charges being faced

The defendants are “facing charges anywhere from willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office to the most serious of charge against several of the defendants which is involuntary manslaughter,” including Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who will be back in court on Wednesday.

On whether the picture has gotten clearer

“I think you could argue it’s gotten clearer but it's also one of those things...these are very complex prosecution questions that the special counsel is trying to answer for the judge.

"It's not as simple as saying 'This person did A, so they're obviously guilty of a crime.’ You have to build a very complex case to link each of these individuals to a crime being committed or the prosecution make its best case to say they were involved in that. And that is taking a very slow, slow, slow step forward in each of these different exams to lay out that case.

"We can see where decisions were made, and where actions may have been delayed, but as you go through the process, the question is, ‘Is that enough to say that was neglect of duty, was that misconduct in office, and of course, was that a step that can be then provable to be a step towards involuntary manslaughter?’ It is a very slow process to build this very complex case against each of these defendants.”

On testimony heard Monday from a Genesee County water expert

"What we heard was essentially that the city wasn't ready for the switch. That the plant physically did not have, for example, its chlorination equipment properly up and running at the time they were moving towards the switch. And that the city employees who were being brought on to handle this were not trained anywhere near enough to handle this type of operation.

"And that is a very key part of what happened. At least in regards to the Legionnaires disease outbreak. As we heard earlier this week, a study was released connecting 80% of the Legionnaires cases to a decline in chlorination levels in the Flint water supply.

"And what happened, according to the witness earlier this week, was that the city was not ready with the equipment and its employees were not ready, as well. And also, according to the witness, state officials were aware of the problems, but they insisted the city move forward."

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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