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Judge asked to disqualify himself from Flint water criminal case

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

We may find out next week if a new judge will be needed in the Flint water crisiscriminal investigation.

A former Flint official charged for his alleged role in the city's water crisis says the judge assigned his case should disqualify himself.

Former city Public Works Director Howard Croft is one of nine people criminally charged in connection with the Flint Water Crisis. Croft is facing two misdemeanor counts of Willful Neglect of Duty.He has entered pleas of not guilty. 

Croft’s case is before District Court Judge William Crawford.

Defense attorney Alexander Rusek represents Croft. During a court hearing Tuesday, Rusek raised his concern about the fact that Judge Crawford lives in Flint and may qualify for a portion of a $641 million civil settlement for victims of the water crisis.

“We have to look at this as allegations that Mr. Croft has allegedly committed some serious crime against you and every other resident of the city of Flint your honor,” says Rusek.

During the hearing, Judge Crawford said before Croft's criminal cases he "couldn't tell you what Howard Croft did.”

The judge recalled a past nuisance complaint involving one of Croft’s neighbors.

Howard Croft has been mired in legal issues since Flint’s water crisis. Croft was indicted on a variety of charges as part of the state’s original investigation into the crisis. Those charges were dropped when Michigan’s Attorney General ordered a review of the investigation. 

Assistant Attorney General Daniel Ping argued in court that the defense has not shown how Judge Crawford would be biased in his handling of the "willful neglect of duty" charges against Croft.

Crawford says he'll consider the motion and rule in seven days. 

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.