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Expert witness in Flint water cases has low expectations for justice

As a professor of mechanical engineering at Kettering University, Laura Sullivan was named an expert witness
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 5:42 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (1/18/2021) - People in Flint are hesitant to get excited after waiting 18 months for criminal charges to be brought back against those believed responsible for the city’s water crisis.

“I’m trying very hard not to think about anything beyond what’s happened thus far,” said Kettering University mechanical engineering professor Laura Sullivan.

She served on the Flint Water Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee and testified as an expert witness in the first round of criminal cases.

Sullivan remains hopeful, but has low expectations for justice moving forward.

She told ABC12 that she hasn’t had a conversation with the new prosecution team since they took over in 2019. Having criticized their efforts early on, Sullivan is not sure if she’ll be called to testify again but she would be willing to if they ask.

“I mean, in the beginning my motivation was really just for the people who have been, had been exploited and hurt around me,” she said. “But they’re friends, they’re close friends of mine now... And yes, I’ve been affected, too. And so now, there’s a whole, there’s a whole lot more motivation behind doing everything I can to make sure that now, that we get some justice here.”

But to Sullivan, justice comes in two forms -- the potential penalties that nine city and state employees are now facing for their alleged roles in the Flint water crisis and accountability for their actions. Accountability is what she’s focused on.

“Standing before a judge and having it read or said what you did to the city,” she said. “My deep hope is just that, that the public will see in a trial these individuals speak and the people that were affected speak.”

As a professor of mechanical engineering at Kettering University, the court deemed Sullivan an expert in the chemistry of metals and corrosion during the preliminary exams for former Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and former Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft.

That hearing happened in October 2018. It was led by Special Prosecutor Todd Flood.

“I felt like it was a slow process, but I felt like it was moving forward. And so, my hopes about justice really fell when he was let go by the AG,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan wished the new investigation team would have been more transparent and provided a progress report at any point during these last 18 months since charges were dropped.

“We’re kind of in this moment of hopefulness -- maybe something good is gonna happen,” she said. “But you know, it’s just such a risk of too many times in the past I’ve said now, now it’s going to be good. And then, I’ve watched and thought, oh my gosh I was so wrong.”

Croft and former Gov. Rick Snyder are expected back in court Tuesday morning for pre-trial hearings. Typically that involves figuring out their schedules and the prosecution will likely hand over their evidence to the defense teams.

Both men are facing two misdemeanors of willful neglect of duty. If convicted, they would each face up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

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