Attorney for former Gov. Snyder says Flint water case is ‘fatally flawed’

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 7:33 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Attorneys for former Gov. Rick Snyder asked a Genesee County judge to dismiss the case against him, calling it “fatally flawed.”

Snyder is charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty for the Flint water crisis, which happened during his eight-year term as governor. He faces up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine if convicted.

Snyder and his attorneys appeared remotely in a Genesee County courtroom on Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing. The court also held a hearing for former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft, who also is facing two willful neglect of duty charges.

Tuesday’s hearing lasted about an hour and a half. The attorneys from both defense teams and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office met privately for about an hour of that time to discuss how they plan to move forward with both of these cases.

Snyder did not speak during the hearing, letting his defense team talk for him. Attorney Brian Lennon argued that the entire case against Snyder should be dismissed.

“The indictment is fatally flawed because it’s charged Governor Snyder with crimes, allegedly that occurred in Genesee County, these crimes, which are both false -- but fatally flawed because they charged in the wrong venue,” Lennon said. “At all times during the indictment Governor Snyder was in his office in the Romney Building in downtown Lansing.”

Lennon said he planned to file a motion for dismissal, but he wanted to give the Flint water investigation team an opportunity to take action on their own.

“To recognize this mistake and voluntarily dismiss the indictment against Governor Snyder,” he said.

Besides the question of whether charges were filed in the proper county, Snyder’s lawyers went on to question the integrity of their investigative work during the past two years.

“It’s a grand jury investigation now. It was an investigative subpoena process. Both are very private and very secretive proceedings. We just don’t know what they have,” Lennon said.

Lennon posed several questions in his request to obtain the entire investigative record.

He wants to know whether prosecutors used a “taint team” when they executed a search warrant on their own office. The team of independent prosecutors and investigators would review evidence first to determine whether any of it falls under attorney-client privilege before passing it along to criminal investigators.

“We have reason to believe that that was not used by this prosecution team led by Solicitor General Hammoud, and Prosecutor Kym Worthy,” Lennon said. “It is a fundamental thing that if not employed at a basic level can can disrupt the integrity or challenge the integrity of the entire investigation.”

He also questioned how certain investigative subpoena transcripts were leaked to the press, if the electronic devices they seized were properly stored and whether the prosecutors searched Snyder’s emails or social media accounts. Lennon and his team wants to see what statements the engineering firm Veolia made in the civil case.

“We believe some statements were made by the state of Michigan with respect to Veolia’s role, and that could be that could bear on these charges,” Lennon said.

The defense team also brought up the issue of obtaining the evidence, which Croft’s team wanted to discuss with the Attorney General’s Office, too.

Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud said last week that her team executed search warrants on over 600 electronic devices and has more than 20 million documents. One document could have thousands of pages in it.

“We’re working together to get things moving as fast as possible in a case that undoubtedly is going to have just a massive amount of discovery in it going forward,” said Alexander Rusek, who is Croft’s defense attorney.

In the secret grand jury process, which led to 42 charges filed against nine suspects in the Flint water investigation last week, the defense teams have just 14 days to request by motion the entire record and transcripts of witness testimony taken in front of the grand juror that led to the charges.

The chief Judge then has order it all be delivered to him. He will look at the record to determine which parts of it show guilt or innocence, certifies that and then gives a copy to both the defense and the Attorney General’s Office.

The judge is giving both sides a month to sort out the issues before another hearing scheduled for Feb. 23.

“Good amount of time for us to to coordinate and understand what our issues are and maybe perhaps hopefully a little bit better about how long it’ll take for to get defense counsel all the material that they’re entitled to,” said Assistant Attorney General Bryant Osikowicz.

Typically, misdemeanor cases don’t go to trial. But Croft’s team has asked for a trial while Snyder’s attorney wants the whole case dismissed.

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