Recent criminal charges in the Flint water crisis allege the most serious felonies against the highest ranking officials yet. Most notably, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Along with Director Lyon, several previously charged officials – including former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith, and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch – have now been additionally charged with involuntary manslaughter.
All defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter are charged in relation to the death of Robert Skidmore, 85, of Mt. Morris, Michigan. Multiple Flint-area residents died of Legionnaires’ disease in the time immediately following the switch from the Detroit Water and Sewer Department to the Flint River. [Special Prosecutor Todd Flood has subsequently informed the court that there may be additional victims based on new evidence.] Skidmore died of Legionnaires’ disease after many others had been diagnosed with the illness, yet no public outbreak notice had been issued. The charges allege failure to notify and lack of action to stop the outbreak allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint’s water system.
In addition to the new involuntary manslaughter charges, the state’s Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells has also been charged with lying to a peace officer and obstruction of justice related to an alleged attempt to stop an investigation into the health crisis in Flint and later misleading investigators as to her actions.
The Michigan Attorney General’s Special Counsel team led by Todd Flood has now criminally charged more than a dozen public officials, along with a civil suit against private firms (Veolia and LAN).For more details and info – including booking photos of defendants - see Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Public Announcement. An additional resource is the recently released Flint Water Crisis Investigation Interim Report. Disclosure: I’m grateful to be a part of this important work. And a criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.