On Thursday, former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder pleaded not guilty to two counts of willful neglect of duty relating to the 2014 Flint Water Crisis. The arraignment on the charges occurred on Thursday morning, Snyder received a $10,000 bond and is set to return for a hearing on January 19.
According to a report by NBC, Snyder could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for his alleged role and neglect in allowing the water supply for the city of Flint to change its source and run through old pipes. The governor’s administration reportedly decided to switch the city of Flint to water coming from its river rather than from Detroit’s water system, causing lead contamination.
“We believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against Governor Snyder,” Brian Lennon, Snyder’s attorney told The Associated Press on Wednesday after the former governor was charged.
An Associated Press article said eight others, including members of Snyder’s administration, were also charged for their part in the Flint water crisis. Criminal charges against six of those charged in this group were also filed in 2017, they were accused of not informing the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which allegedly killed 12 people, and severe pneumonia caused by the contaminated water. Those charges were dropped in 2019 after the prosecution team changed.
Local 4, a Detroit news channel, reported that the evidence against the former governor includes emails showing he had been warned of the danger at least one year before the water source was switched and that he was involved in the cover-up of the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak, which some think was caused by the water contamination.
The state of Michigan also received legal challenges due to the Flint Water Crisis. To settle some claims, the state agreed to pay $600 million to a fund for individuals and businesses who alleged they were harmed by the poor water quality. Almost 80 percent of the funds from the settlement will go to children who were harmed by the lead exposure.
“The Flint water crisis is not some relic of the past,” Fadwa Hammoud of the Michigan attorney general’s office told reporters according to the Associated Press. “At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government who trampled upon their trust and evaded accountability for far too long.”