The Michigan Attorney General's Office said a state Supreme Court ruling "has put the final nail in the coffin of the Flint Water Prosecutions."
The court Tuesday rejected a request by prosecutors to revive misdemeanor charges against Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder, the last of the Flint cases that involved contaminated Flint water. In the end, prosecutors scored zero convictions.
"At this time the Court has left us with no option but to consider the Flint Water Prosecutions closed," said a press release issued by the Michigan Attorney General's Office. "The Flint Water Prosecution Team will be releasing a full and thorough report to the public in the months to come detailing the efforts and decisions of the State prosecution. It is anticipated the report will be released in 2024."
The news was not good for Flint residents, who wanted government officials to be held accountable for the water scandal.
"I am disheartened and frustrated that justice for the people of Flint has been denied once again," Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said in a statement, according to WWMT in Kalamazoo. "The evidence in this case has never been heard."
The investigation and prosecution was fraught with problems from the beginning, and after seven years, the case cost taxpayers roughly $60 million.
The case revolved around Flint residents being exposed to drinking water that posed serious health risks. That problems surfaced after Flint in 2014 switched water sources from the Detroit-supplied Lake Huron water to the Flint River as a cost saving measure.
Residents complained of discolored and foul-smelling water that was causing health issues including rashes and hair loss. Addiitonally, there were outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County authorities suspected were linked to the bad water. At least a dozen deaths were linked to the disease.
In 2016, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appointed attorney Todd Flood, a former assistant Wayne County prosecutor, to head up the Flint probe. Flood and his team ended up charging a number of people in the Snyder administration, but not Snyder.
After Dana Nessel was elected attorney general in 2018, she appointed her own prosecution team led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. The group dropped all the charges filed by Flood's team and decided to start all over.
Eventually, new charges were filed against a number of people including misdemeanor charges against Snyder, using a one-man grand jury.
But the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the one-man grand jury was not acceptable under the law and the cases were all dismissed.
Snyder was the final case.
"The Court decided that a process which has stood in place for over a century, one whose legitimacy the Court upheld repeatedly, was simply not ‘good enough’ to hold those responsible for the Flint Water Crisis accountable for their actions," said a statement posted on the Attorney General's website. "Our disappointment in the Michigan Supreme Court is exceeded only by our sorrow for the people of Flint.”
Flint Mayor, in his statement, remarked:
"This prevailed on a legal technicality, whereby people of color historically have not had the same opportunities. The one-man grand jury has been upheld against plaintiffs from under-resourced backgrounds, while Snyder has been allowed to evade justice based on a technicality thanks to a well-resourced, taxpayer-funded legal defense. The standard of justice has not been balanced."