Flint water activist ‘not holding my breath’ for justice or new charges
(6/12/2020) - “I feel disappointed, like we've had no justice. Our people have had no justice here in Flint for what has happened to us,” Florlisa Stebbins said.
The Flint mother turned activist by the Flint Water Crisis explained she’s tired of waiting for someone to be held accountable for poisoning her family.
It's been six years since the water source switch. 15 state and city officials were initially charged.
But one year ago, a bombshell came from the Attorney General's new prosecution team. The cases that didn't result in a plea deal were dropped.
The Attorney General's Office announced the shocking decision by email. In it, they made it clear journalists couldn't ask any questions.
The new prosecution team held a meeting for the community about a month later.
Dr. Laura Sullivan said they didn’t shed any light on what was going on, then; and she said, that confusion still remains today.
“There's all kinds of out front appearance of justice. Oh we hear you and this is what we're going to do, but the lived experience is so different. And, and it's still one that, that's not completely informed,” she explained.
Dr. Sullivan, a mechanical engineering professor at Kettering University, was deemed an expert witness in the investigation before cases were dropped.
She said the team's decision to fire former special Prosecutor Todd Flood was politically-motivated and it's harming justice for the community.
“It's like show, but not even an effective show to make it appear like something's happening,” she explained. “And then really, just not to even care about whether or not it appears like something's happening.”
Dr. Sullivan testified in the involuntary manslaughter case against a former emergency manager and a former city official.
The new team hasn't reached out, so she's not sure of what they may or may not be doing. But, as a member of the community -- the victims connected to these criminal cases -- she said they should be privy to that information.
“We're never going to stop fighting, we're never going to stop being angry, but we're also probably never going to feel like, like we're really being given the honest truth and being treated with respect,” Dr. Sullivan said.
Is there even enough money to continue the work? Could this be a waste of taxpayer money?
Of the 15 cases brought in 2016 and 2017, seven plea agreements stand:
Michael Glasgow (Flint Water Treatment Plant)
Stephen Busch (MDEQ, now EGLE)
Michael Prysby (MDEQ, now EGLE)
Adam Rosenthal (MDEQ, now EGLE)
Lianne Shekter-Smith (MDEQ, now EGLE)
Corinne Miller (MDHHS)
Daugherty Johnson (Flint Department of Public Works)
These 8 unfinished cases were dropped one year ago, pending new evidence and further investigation:
Robert Scott (MDHHS)
Nancy Peeler (MDHHS)
Eden Wells (MDHHS)
Nick Lyon (MDHHS)
Patrick Cook (MDEQ, now EGLE)
Darnell Earley (Emergency Manager)
Gerald Ambrose (Emergency Manager)
Howard Croft (Flint Department of Public Works)
“I hope they will prove me wrong; but at this point, I'm not holding my breath any longer and many others feel that way, the same,” Stebbins said.
She believes the timing of when the cases were dropped is suspicious. The decision came shortly before Lyon was to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter.
“I would think they were stalling for some reason,” she said. “I mean, obviously, you know, they wouldn’t have been charged the first time if there wasn't evidence and I know personally from what I've seen and how involved I've been personally.”
Stebbins became a local activist after her family got sick from the contaminated water. She was forced to move out of her childhood home where she raised her kids.
“I went above and beyond I knew that nobody was there to protect my family so I had to be,” she explained.
And, 6 years later, she still feels on her own. She said her family is still struggling with several health issues, they're unable to drink their water and frankly angry about all they've endured through no fault of their own.
“Some people aren't even here any longer to see any of this. So that's, that's the hardest part for many of us that have been here the long haul,” she said.
With the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement now earning what she considers much-needed attention, she's fearful justice for Flint really will be forgotten.
“It's been shifted away from how we were hurt; and not only just monetarily, but our health and emotion and everything all tied up,” she said. “You know some people are still living day to day and this will never go away.”
The Attorney General’s Office did not comment on the one-year mark, instead referring ABC12 to a statement made in April.