Reaction flowing in after the latest legal decision regarding The Flint Water Crisis

The Flint water plant tower is seen, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Flint, Mich. After Flint's...
The Flint water plant tower is seen, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Flint, Mich. After Flint's water crisis, 35% of Black adults in the U.S. said they didn't drink tap water, up from 25%. High-profile cases of lead contamination in predominantly Black cities and a history of deception around the problem have led to a distrust of tap water, which can have long-term health and financial consequences.(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT
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Flint, Mich. (WNEM) -Flint resident Florlisa Fowler reacting to the news that criminal charges have been dismissed against seven people for their alleged roles in the Flint Water Crisis.

“At this point, many of us probably feel that we’re not going to get justice in the courtroom. To say that we’re disheartened is the least at this point,” Fowler said.

Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Kelly ruled that the criminal charges against Jarrod Agen, Gerald Ambrose, Richard Baird, Darnell Early, Nicolas Lyon, Nancy Peeler, and Eden Wells were not valid.

It was a decision that did not go over well with Flint activist Melissa Mays.

“I’m angry and I’m disgusted and I’m furious and sad for everybody, especially those whose lives are lost,” Mays said.

Mays tells us she wasn’t surprised by the ruling. Given that three months earlier, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a different judge acting as a one-person grand jury had no authority to issue indictments. Mays believes the Attorney General’s Office dropped the ball.

“If they were as dedicated as they said they were to get justice for Flint, you would think they would dot every I and cross every T. You know, just to make sure that nothing like this would happen,” Mays said.

Attorney Randall Levine represents Richard Baird. Baird served as the Transformation Manager for former Governor Rick Snyder. Baird was facing up to thirty years in prison if convicted on his most serious charge of extortion. Levine tells us Baird was singled out as the cause of the water crisis, but now, he’s been vindicated.

“My client is ecstatic. He hopes that it is over. Mr. Baird grew up in Flint. He worked tirelessly for the citizens of Flint when he was with the Snyder Administration,” Levine said.

Levine understands that Flint residents are upset, angered, and disappointed with the failures of government at virtually all levels that resulted in their water being poisoned.

“But to prosecute innocent people in order to mollify legitimate concerns is not what we do in this country,” Levine said.

As for Fowler, she says the only thing left to do is move on.

“We just pick up the pieces and do what we can. That’s all we can do,” Fowler said.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and the Flint Water Prosecution Team released the statement below following Judge Elizabeth Kelly’s dismissal of charges against defendants in the Flint criminal prosecution:

“We are committed to Flint.

Despite the prosecution’s tireless pursuit of justice for the victims of the water crisis, the courts have once again sided in favor of well-connected, wealthy individuals with political power and influence instead of the families and children of Flint.

The proceedings up to this point have been a challenge of process that ultimately led to the Supreme Court, where a prosecutorial tool that has been relied upon for decades was suddenly changed.  That same tool has been used and was historically upheld by the appellate courts in various jurisdictions in Michigan to bring charges against defendants of often-limited means. However, it was not until its use in this case against these privileged and well-funded defendants that the courts did see fit to overturn established precedent and procedure.

We longed for the day when we would present the evidence against the defendants to a jury. However, these defendants have spared no expense to ensure that these cases were disposed of by judges based upon anything except the merits of the cases.  As a result, the victims of Flint have never had their day in court.

There are not adequate words to express the anger and disappointment felt by our team, who have spent years on this case only to see it thwarted based upon a new interpretation of a nearly century-old law.  Though it may be of little comfort, the people of Flint have always had on their side a dedicated team of lawyers and advocates committed to justice and with the sincere belief that what happened to the people of Flint is a crime.

The civil settlements are not sufficient. Compensation is not the same as accountability for those who allegedly allowed an entire town to be poisoned.  And it is not the same as justice.

The prosecution has pledged to exhaust all available legal options to pursue this case and that pledge remains.  The team will review today’s ruling and continue its pursuit of justice for Flint.”