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Was the judge a victim? Former Flint official wants someone else to preside over water crisis trial

Because the indictment lists Flint “residents” as the victims of Howard Croft’s two misdemeanor charges, his defense team wants the Judge disqualified.
Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 4:52 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (2/16/2021) - One of nine people charged in the Flint water criminal investigation wants the judge presiding over his case disqualified.

Howard Croft is the former Director of Flint’s Department of Public Works.

He’s facing two counts of willful neglect of duty for his alleged role in failing to inform the Flint community about the dangers of switching the City’s water source.

“Your Honor is an alleged victim of Mr. Croft’s alleged crimes in this matter,” Croft’s defense attorney Alexander Rusek explained.

Because the indictment lists Flint “residents” as the victims of Croft’s two misdemeanor charges, his defense team said Judge William Crawford who lives and works in the City can’t fairly preside over Croft’s case.

Plus, Rusek argued Croft is a defendant in the Flint water civil lawsuit, which the Judge could also benefit from because he lived through the water crisis.

“You live in the city, you have personal knowledge of these events,” he added.

But, the Attorney General’s Flint Water Prosecution team fought back saying Judge Crawford has no “impulse” to help them. Assistant Attorney General Daniel Ping asked the Judge to deny Croft’s motion.

Ping explained, “This is also like an insurance fraud case where the insurance fraud causes everyone’s premiums to go up, but we don’t disqualify all judges who pay homeowners insurance premiums.”

Ping did make it clear to the Judge if he feels he can’t be fair, he can disqualify himself.

“Mr. Croft -- til this case, I didn’t know for sure what his position was for the City of Flint,” Judge Crawford said.

After listening to both sides during the half hour hearing, Judge Crawford asked a few questions.

He said he’ll make his decision within the next 7 days, adding he’ll likely have Genesee County’s Chief Judge review his decision before making it public.

Judge Crawford also presides over former Governor Rick Snyder’s case. ABC12 has learned if he disqualifies himself from Croft’s case, he’ll likely disqualify himself from Snyder’s too.

In the previous criminal investigation under Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Administration, Judge Crawford handled the case against the state health department’s former Chief Medical Executive. The question of disqualifying him was never brought up.

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