(CBS DETROIT) — Hours after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the indictments against former Gov. Rick Snyder and eight other people in the Flint water scandal were invalid, state Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud said she is still prepared to prove the allegations against them.
Tuesday’s ruling by the court wipes out those charges, which were issued against the ex-officials in 2021.READ MORE: Michigan Matters: Pistons’ Rob Murphy on Helping His Hometown
The Supreme Court said state laws “authorize a judge to investigate, subpoena witnesses, and issue arrest warrants” as a one-person grand jury.
“But they do not authorize the judge to issue indictments,” the court said in a 6-0 opinion.
Despite the ruling, Hammoud, who was assigned by Attorney General Dana Nessel in 2019 to lead the criminal investigation, said “these cases are not over.”
“Public commentary to the contrary is presumptive and rash. Our reading is that the Court’s opinion interprets the one-man grand jury process to require charges to be filed at the district court and include a preliminary examination,”Hammoud said in the statement. “Our team is prepared to move forward through that process. We relied upon settled law and the well-established prosecutorial tool of the one-man grand jury, used for decades, to bring forward charges against the nine defendants in the Flint water crisis. We still believe these charges can and will be proven in court.
“We are prepared and determined to prove the allegations against the defendants in court and are committed to seeing this process through to its conclusion.”
Hammoud, as well as Wayne County Kym Worthy, turned to a one-judge grand jury in Genesee County — a century-old, rarely used method — to hear evidence in secret and get indictments against Snyder and others.
Worthy issued the following state on Tuesday’s ruling:
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“Today in People of the State of Michigan v Nancy Peeler, et al, the Michigan Supreme Court has called into question the constitutionality of the one-man grand jury. In the coming days I will be looking at pending cases in my office that may be affected by this ruling to determine how we will proceed.
“In Wayne County we have communities that are plagued by murders, drive by shootings, and other violent crimes. The one-man-grand jury has been an important way to protect witnesses who would have never come forward for fear of deadly consequences for themselves, family members, and friends. This process has been a fair, efficient, and cost-effective way of getting a case into court for indictment. The juror is a judge well versed in the law and the process allows brave witnesses to come forward knowing that they will be safe in giving sworn testimony. The one-man- grand jury has been effectively used in some of the most violent cases in Wayne and other counties.
“It is extremely difficult for me to hear the Michigan Supreme Court asserting an intellectual argument against the one-man- grand-jury when I know that it people in my community are under siege with the homicides, assaults with guns and gang wars exacting a horrible toll on families for generations to come. This has been a powerful tool to combat the “no snitch mentality” and I am disappointed and fearful for what the future will hold without this important criminal process.”
Snyder was charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. Ex-health chief Nick Lyon and Michigan’s former chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, were charged with involuntary manslaughter for nine deaths related to Legionnaires’ disease when Flint’s water system might have lacked enough chlorine to combat bacteria in the river water.
Six others were also indicted on various charges: Snyder’s longtime fixer, Rich Baird; former senior aide Jarrod Agen; former Flint managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; former Flint public works chief Howard Croft; and Nancy Peeler, a state health department manager.
Snyder served as governor from 2011 through 2018.
Officials say in April 2014, an emergency manager appointed by Snyder carried out a money-saving decision to use water from the Flint River while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron.
The water, however, was not treated to reduce corrosion — a disastrous decision affirmed by state regulators that caused lead to leach from old pipes and spoil the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents. Experts say the decision led to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and accused then-Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon of failing to alert the public.
In March 2016, a governor-appointed panel concluded that Michigan is “fundamentally accountable” for the crisis because of decisions made by environmental regulators.
Charges were filed against 15 people in 2019; however, prosecutors dropped all charges against eight people and pledge to restart the investigation. Seven of the 15 people pleaded no contest to misdemeanors and their records would eventually be scrubbed clean.
In November 2021, a judge approved a $626 million settlement for residents and others exposed to the water.MORE NEWS: Judge Says Michigan Gov. Whitmer Won't Have To Testify In Abortion Lawsuit
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