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End of the line for Flint criminal charges: Supreme Court declines AG’s appeal

water towel
The state Supreme Court upheld lower court dismissals of charges against seven Flint water crisis defendants. It was the second major ruling in the case by the court, which last year found that prosecutors' approach was improper. (Linda Parton /
  • The Michigan Supreme Court upheld the decisions of lower courts that had dismissed charges against seven state officials charged for their role in the Flint water crisis.
  • The Court last year imperiled the charges against the officials when it ruled that prosecutors’ use of a one-person grand jury had been improper.
  • Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision makes the dismissals final for seven officials but does not affect a misdemeanor charge against former Gov. Rick Snyder whose case is on a different timeline.

The Michigan Supreme Court Wednesday shot down the state attorney general’s high-profile effort to criminally prosecute seven former public officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

In a series of orders, the court left in place lower court dismissals of the charges, which were thrown out after an earlier Supreme Court ruling found that a prosecution team appointed by Attorney General Dana Nessel had improperly relied on a one-person grand jury to bring charges in 2021. 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, appointed by Nessel as co-lead of the state’s prosecution team along with Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, had used the unusual tactic, in which prosecutors presented evidence in secret to a single judge to secure charges against multiple former public officials. 


Those originally charged include former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon; former MDHHS employee Nancy Peeler; former MDHHS medical executive Eden Wells; Jarrod Agen and Richard Baird, who were top aides for former Gov. Rick Snyder; and former Flint emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley.

It’s not clear whether the ruling means the final conclusion to the criminal cases. Prosecutors said in a statement that they “are reviewing the statutes” and considering their next steps. 

The Supreme Court first ruled in the case last year when it deemed Worthy’s tactics improper. That led lower court judges to dismiss charges against nearly all Flint defendants, including former Gov. Rick Snyder.

Prosecutors objected to those dismissals, arguing that the cases should have been re-argued in a lower court rather than thrown out. The Supreme Court Wednesday rejected that argument, writing “we are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

Following the court’s orders Wednesday, seven dismissals are now final for Lyon, Wells, Ambrose, Earley, Agen, Baird and Peeler.

Snyder’s misdemeanor case remains in play because it’s on a different timeline, Supreme Court spokesperson John Nevin said. Nessel’s appeal of dismissed charges against another official, former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft, also remains in play. 

In a statement Wednesday, the prosecution team decried the Court’s ruling as “not based on the facts of this case,” adding that it “did not in any way imply that the defendants are innocent.” 

Prosecutors defended the use of a one-person jury, and zeroed in on state law that makes it a misdemeanor to publicly release evidence presented to that jury. Prosecutors vowed to seek ways to allow the evidence to be shared publicly.

“The people of the State of Michigan, and in particular the people of the City of Flint, deserve to know the truth, and this team is committed to that goal,” the statement said.

“We understand that our work is not done, and the criminal justice system alone cannot remedy all the suffering that every victim endured,” the statement said. “Despite today’s outcome, we take seriously our continued role in restoring trust and transparency in government.”

The statement also included input from Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, who blasted the Supreme Court decision, saying it “further erodes that sacred trust in a representative government's ability to serve the people through appropriate checks and balances.”

Baird’s lawyer, Randall Levine, lauded the ruling in a statement, saying he and his client were “elated,” but lamenting the toll the years-long case has taken. 

“For the past three years, Mr. Baird has been unfairly disgraced by state prosecutors in an effort to rectify the government’s wrongdoing that was done to Flint citizens nearly a decade ago,”Levine wrote.“We have maintained all along that there is no basis for the state prosecutor’s appeal, and the one-person grand jury that they used in an attempt to convict my client is an antiquated process.”

The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when the city, while under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River without requiring corrosion control to keep lead from leaching from the city’s older water pipes. 

Snyder’s administration initially failed to heed residents’ complaints about smelly and discolored tap water. The resulting lead crisis coincided with two outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease and 12 deaths.

After Nessel took office in 2019, her office dismissed earlier criminal charges filed under her Republican predecessor, Bill Schuette, and then relaunched the state’s investigation. 

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