FLINT, Michigan (AP) – Prosecutors who dropped charges against eight people in the Flint water scandal explained their decision in a public forum on Friday night, telling frustrated, shocked and saddened residents they must look at hundreds of mobile devices and millions of documents that a previous investigative team never reviewed.
Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy spoke to about 100 residents on Friday night at a union hall in the city, two weeks after dismissing charges against the former state health director and other officials. The three-year probe has started over, and charges could be refiled.
“We have received information that is absolutely relevant to our investigation that we have never had before,” said Hammoud, who took over the investigation of Flint’s lead-contaminated water in January following the election of Dana Nessel, a Democrat who succeeded Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette. Nessel is not involved in the criminal probe because she is working to resolve Flint residents’ lawsuits against the state.
Hammoud cited the need to review 20 million documents and said her team uncovered in a month, with search warrants, what previous investigators had not retrieved in three years.
The prosecutors criticised how their predecessors cut seven other officials plea deals resulting in no jail time or criminal records.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Worthy, who also joined the criminal team.
Some residents were shocked by the massive amount of new materials being reviewed and that the statute of limitations for one felony crime – misconduct in office – could expire in nine months. Others thanked the new prosecutors, agreeing the prior investigation was inadequate.
Arthur Woodson said defendants who pleaded no contest “got less time for poisoning over 98,000 people than somebody stealing a slice of pizza. People have died. … I have PTSD. It’s hard to trust. But what I heard here today: Y’all have been totally honest.”