Z e t e o
Reading, Looking, Listening, . . . Questioning

Will Anyone Face Criminal Charges for the Flint Water Crisis?

Categories: Drew Whitcup, ZiR


Flint River in Flint, MIchiganResidents of Flint, Michigan continue to be subjected to dangerously high lead levels in their drinking water. The long-term effects are likely to be catastrophic, especially when it comes to the brain development of Flint’s young children. Naturally, questions have arisen about what members of the Michigan state government knew, and when they knew it.

Local Detroit reporter Kevin Dietz examines the likelihood of anyone—Michigan Governor Rick Snyder included—facing criminal charges for the Flint water crisis:

Keith Corbett, a former federal prosecutor, says criminal charges in these types of cases are often difficult to prove. Corbett spent more than two decades as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and was responsible for several high-profile prosecutions.

‘When you’re dealing with incompetence and malfeasance in office that’s just the result of people not doing their job, it becomes difficult to turn that into crime,’ he said.

Corbett thinks it is doubtful anyone intended to poison Flint’s drinking water and unlikely anyone involved took a bribe or kickback.

Considering the US is currently holding more than 1 million nonviolent offenders in prison, one would think we would seek to prosecute anyone responsible for poisoning an entire city.

Michigan Governor Rick SnyderThat may be so, but numerous criminal statues make it possible to prosecute an individual for reckless behavior. Intent is not necessarily a requirement, and if Governor Snyder (at right) and others knew (or should have known) the dangers of their decisions, that could certainly equate to criminal responsibility.

In any event, Dietz sees another way in which the imminent federal probe could find Snyder and others in hot water:

[I]f criminal charges are coming, it’s much more likely to come from a cover up rather than the decision to change Flint’s water system in the first place.

‘If they engaged in some sort of activity like generating forged documents or tried to conceal [the water’s toxicity] then you get into an area where you may be able to articulate some violations like the mail fraud statute the wire fraud statute,’ said Corbett.

And, Arena says, if Snyder and company aren’t completely honest during the investigation, that could trigger charges as well.

People are already questioning timelines given by Snyder and other officials. Emails and memos have surfaced raising doubts that everything was done as soon as possible to limit Flint residents’ exposure to lead.  Lying to the public and media is not a crime, but lying to federal investigators is a serious crime.

Considering the US is currently holding more than 1 million nonviolent offenders in prison, one would think they would seek to prosecute anyone responsible for poisoning an entire city. Anyone struggling to comprehend the Flint water crisis and hoping for swift justice, however, will likely end up disappointed.

— Drew Whitcup, Zeteo Contributing Writer

CLICK HERE to subscribe to parts or all of Zeteo. $0. Thoughts many.

Leave a Reply