During Grit Post‘s series on the Flint Water Crisis this April, the long and lasting road to making the city whole again and seeking justice came back into focus five years after the crisis began. One area explored was the difficulty bringing those whose criminal acts were responsible for Flint’s suffering to justice.
Now, Flint residents will have to wait even longer to see justice.
Michigan’s Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud has dropped all the criminal cases currently ongoing “without prejudice,” meaning those cases may be brought again if the prosecutors determine it is necessary. The decision was announced Thursday by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s (D) office. Nessel’s office made it clear no media inquiries would be taken at this time.
The reason is that current prosecutors were not satisfied with the work done by the former prosecutor team under Republican Attorney General and failed gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette. According to MLive, the eight criminal cases dismissed were against former Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) director Nick Lyon, former Michigan chief medical executive Eden Wells, former Flint emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, DHHS officials Nancy Peeler and Robert Scott, Department of Environmental Quality official Patrick Cook, and former Flint Department of Public Works director Howard Croft.
A “community conversation” with Flint will be held June 28, after which the Attorney General’s office expects to be able to further brief the media.
“Legitimate criminal prosecutions require complete investigations,” read a statement from prosecutors. “Contrary to accepted standards of criminal investigation and prosecution, all available evidence was not pursued.”
As such, Hammoud and her team are apparently starting from scratch in an effort to build a stronger case than the one they inherited from the previous administration. While this makes it more likely that justice will be served, it does slow the process considerably. It also effectively renders the cost of the prior investigation wasted. Both these considerations made the Solicitor General hesitant to start from scratch.
“Nonetheless, we cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation,” reads the statement, “Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation.”
Despite the frustration the delays resulting from this dismissal are likely to cause Flint citizens, the prosecutors hope that ultimately the odds of seeing justice done will be stronger because of it.
We may know more following the meeting between prosecutors and Flint residents June 28.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.