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Judge tosses charges against seven in Flint water scandal, citing improperly issued grand jury indictments

A Michigan judge threw out charges against seven state officials charged with a series of problems with the Flint water system, including the mass lead poisoning and a subsequent contamination of Legionnaire’s disease that led to the deaths of nine people, USA Today reports.

Michigan Circuit Judge Elizabeth Kelly determined that prosecutors improperly used a one-man grand jury–a county circuit court judge unilaterally issued the indictments without a preliminary hearing–to bring charges against the defendants.  Kelly did not dismiss the charges with prejudice, meaning prosecutors can present the cases to an actual grand jury in the future.

The seven charged were:  former state health director Nick Lyon; former chief medical executive Eden Wells; Republican then-governor Rick Snyder’s aide Rich Baird; former senior aide Jarrod Agen; former Flint managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley; and Nancy Peeler, a health department manager.

Snyder assigned Ambrose and Earley to run Flint, which was in financial difficulties.  To reportedly save money, the assigned managers chose to change the source of fresh water in the town’s system, which caused lead to leach into the water, a situation that could have been prevented by the addition of chemicals that cost less than $100 per month.  Although officials were later told of the lead poisoning in the water, they declined to tell residents; four months after EPA monitors found high levels of lead in the system, state official were telling residents to “relax” because it wasn’t a big deal.

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