A Michigan judge dismissed charges Tuesday against seven people in the Flint water scandal, including two former state health officials blamed for deaths from Legionnaires’ disease.
Judge Elizabeth Kelly took action three months after the Michigan Supreme Court said a one-judge grand jury had no authority to issue indictments.
Kelly rejected efforts by the attorney general’s office to just send the cases to Flint District Court and turn them into criminal complaints, the typical path to filing felony charges in Michigan.
“Simply put, there are no valid charges,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s decision doesn’t affect former Gov. Rick Snyder. That’s only because he was charged with misdemeanors and his case is being handled by a judge in a different Flint court. But he, too, was indicted in a process declared invalid by the Supreme Court.
In 2014, Flint managers appointed by Snyder took the city out of a regional water system and began using the Flint River to save money while a new pipeline to Lake Huron was being built. But the river water wasn’t treated to reduce its corrosive qualities. Lead broke off from old pipes and contaminated the system for more than a year.
Separately, the water was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which typically spreads through heating and cooling systems.
Former state health director Nick Lyon and former chief medical executive Eden Wells were charged with involuntary manslaughter in nine deaths linked to Legionnaires’. They were accused of failing to timely warn the Flint area about the outbreak.
Lyon’s attorneys praised Kelly’s decision and urged the attorney general’s office to close a “misguided prosecution.”
“This misuse of the criminal justice system has to stop,” Chip Chamberlain and Ron DeWaard said. “Misleading statements about what Director Lyon did or didn’t do contribute nothing to a constructive public dialogue and do not represent justice for anyone.”
An email seeking comment was sent to state prosecutors.