The interior of the Flint water plant is seen on September 14, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
UPDATED 2:45 PM PT – Thursday, January 14, 2021
Former Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.) is arraigned on his alleged role in the Flint water crisis, which was blamed for the deaths of 12 people.
Reports on Thursday detailed the charges, which state Snyder faces two misdemeanor counts of “willful neglect of duty,” stemming from alleged offenses in 2014.
“People work for me that let us all down,” Snyder claimed. “And I’m responsible for that.”
Snyder appeared before the district judge via ‘Zoom.’ According to records, the charges date back to April 2014 when Flint began to use the Flint River as the city’s new water source. The city did so during the construction of a new pipeline.
The decision to not treat the water caused lead to leech into it from the older pipes, which led to health issues in the city. Each of the charges carries up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Snyder has been out of the office for two years and still resides in the state — a point his attorney made when prosecutors sought to confiscate his passport.
His defense said they “believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges” against him and entered pleas of not guilty. The judge set a personal recognizance bond of $10,000 on each charge, ordering him not to leave the state.
In 2017, charges were first filed against several state officials in relation to the crisis, but many were dropped in 2019. Residents who lived through the crisis said officials should be held accountable.
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 03: Flint residents Gladyes Williamson (C) holds a bottle full of contaminated water, and a clump of her hair, alongside Jessica Owens (R), holding a baby bottle full of contaminated water, during a news conference after attending a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Flint, Michigan water crisis on Capitol Hill February 3, 2016 in Washington, DC. Williamson, and Owens traveled to Washington by bus with other flint familes to attend the House hearing on the crisis, and demand that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder be brought before Congress to testify under oath. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
“We’re coming up on seven years of being in a prison where we can’t even be safe in our own homes,” Flint resident Melissa Mays said. “And then, of course, under COVID we’ve all been locked indoors and we’re stuck using this water.”
According to reports, the charges mark the first time a governor or former governor of Michigan has been charged with crimes related to their time in office.
Charges have been announced against several other officials too, including a top aide of the governor’s. The top aide faces four felony charges, which include extortion and obstruction of justice. The former health department director was charged with nine felony counts of involuntary manslaughter, while the former Flint Department of Public Works director faces the same charges as Snyder.
Reports also noted the state agreed to a $600 million settlement in August in a class-action lawsuit with affected Flint residents.