A year later, Flint Water’s criminal cases are slowly moving through the courts

Lyon and his attorneys were returning to court on Wednesday to argue that he had no “personal duty” to individual citizens under Michigan law and that his case should be dismissed.

“Mr. Lyon was a public administrator, not a health expert, and dozens of qualified national and local people were investigating and responding to the outbreak under his direction,” lawyers said in a court filing.

Prosecutors insist Lyon can be held criminally responsible because he knew of a rise in Legionnaire cases long before it was publicly announced and could have done more. Dr. Eden Wells, who was Michigan’s chief medical director, faces the same charges.

A statewide group that represents local health departments is taking Lyon’s side, although Judge Elizabeth Kelly has denied a request to add her voice to the case.

“Inventing criminal liability for public officials” will discourage people from serving in government, the group said, and will not make the public safer.

Snyder, who led the state for eight years until 2019, is the first current or former Michigan governor to be charged with crimes related to his tenure. He acknowledged that Flint’s water switch, pushed by the city managers he appointed, and the subsequent lead contamination were tragic, but he denied any personal wrongdoing.

Snyder’s legal team attacked the case on multiple fronts, starting with location. Defense attorneys say he cannot be charged in a Flint court for neglect of duty while Snyder worked miles away in Ingham County. This argument has failed so far, although an appeal is pending.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, lost key court decisions over documents seized from state offices during the investigation. Search warrants have apparently swept through files containing confidential communications involving attorneys during the Snyder administration, including water issues in Flint and even the bankruptcy of Detroit.

Kelly recently ordered the attorney general’s office to set up an independent team to comb through records that may violate solicitor-client privilege. Assistant Attorney General Christopher Kessel warned it could cost $48 million and take a few years.

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