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Attorney general recounts 2020’s major investigations and lawsuits in Michigan

Alleged plot to kidnap or kill Gov. Whitmer is among significant legal action
Published: Dec. 31, 2020 at 7:05 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel looked back on several historic cases that landed in her office during 2020, including major lawsuits involving the state and serious investigations.

Nessel recounted the unprecedented nature of some of the events of 2020 and her hopes for 2021.

The alleged plot to kidnap or kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was one of the most serious cases Nessel’s office handled in 2020. Her office charged eight men with crimes stemming from the alleged plot while federal authorities are prosecuting six others.

“I mean, this is the stuff you of Hollywood movies,” Nessel said. “We don’t really actually see these types of things in real life, but we did this year. We did in 2020 here in the state of Michigan.”

Her office also sued the U.S. postmaster general over allegations that the U.S. Postal Service had been deliberately slowing down mail to make absentee voting more difficult.

“I never imagined myself being in that position,” Nessel said.

She also defended Michigan in a lawsuit from the state of Texas seeking to strip the state’s 16 electoral votes from the final tally, which were awarded to President-elect Joe Biden.

“These are the types of things that, from a legal standpoint, had never been before -- in the history of the United States before, but we saw them in 2020,” Nessel said. “I hope to never see those type of legal actions brought again.”

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office helped negotiate a historic $600 million proposal that sets up the Flint Water Settlement Fund to complete numerous lawsuits filed over the Flint water crisis. That is the largest settlement in the state’s history.

A federal judge is planning to rule in early 2021 whether the settlement proposal will be approved. The Michigan Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer already passed bills this year setting up the fund and borrowing $600 million.

The city of Flint also approved adding $20 million, along with another $20 million from McLaren Flint Hospital and $1.2 million from Rowe Professional Services. Lawsuits continue against the EPA and other entities accused of wrongdoing during the Flint water crisis.

“So we are looking forward to getting that wrapped up and we remain hopeful that there will be further money available and that this record breaking $641.2 million will not be the end of it,” Nessel said.

Nessel’s investigation into clergy abuse allegation in the Catholic church hit the two-year mark in October. Eleven people so far have been charged.

“Clear evidence that those in the church knew that there was widespread abuse that was taking place and that there was this concerted effort really to cover up that abuse,” she said.

In 2020, Nessel’s office also investigated law enforcement, elected and appointed officials.

“The prevailing sentiment is this: Nobody is above the law,” she said.

Nessel hopes the new year brings renewed interest in people working together.

“Let’s all work together in a bipartisan fashion to help the people that are suffering the most,” she said. “That’s what we should be focused on. Not finger pointing, but working together to solve these solutions. That’s what everybody pays their tax dollars for. Let’s put it behind us.”

Nessel also expects announcements early in 2021 about the Flint water crisis criminal investigation. She said Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy are nearing the end of the investigation and plan to make announcements soon.

Nessel hasn’t said whether more criminal charges will be issued against people allegedly responsible for causing the water crisis.

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