News Story

Case closed: Flint Water Crisis ends without a single prosecution

Nessel distances herself from failed effort; Michigan taxpayers have spent $60M; the final bill will be bigger

There will be no successful prosecutions in the Flint Water Crisis. The case will close, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced this week, without a single conviction.

Nessel’s final hope for a prosecution — a misdemeanor willful neglect case against former Gov. Rick Snyder — was dashed this week when the Michigan Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s appeal of a lower court’s dismissal. The court ruled that Nessel’s use of a one-person grand jury was unconstitutional.

Nessel’s team argued the practice is backed by “a century of precedent,” but the Supreme Court was unmoved.

“We are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this court,” the Michigan Supreme Court wrote in a one-line order.

That sentence, Nessel said, was the “final nail in the coffin of the Flint water prosecutions.”

Thus far, Michigan taxpayers have spent $60 million on the case. The Detroit News reports that the final bill will be bigger. As Beth LeBlanc writes:

The state of Michigan has spent at least $60 million on legal fees alone so far on seven years of civil and criminal cases related to the Flint water crisis. That total doesn't include the $47 million ordered for lawyers leading the civil suit against the state, the yet-to-be-determined attorney fees owed to Snyder for the disclosure of protected documents and about a year of yet-to-be-tallied expenses from Nessel's office.

“At this time the court has left us with no option but to consider the Flint Water Prosecutions closed,” Nessel said in a statement Tuesday. “The Flint Water prosecution team will be releasing a full and thorough report to the public in the months to come detailing the efforts and decisions of the state prosecution. It is anticipated the report will be released in 2024.”

The report will be an explainer on the state’s course of action, Nessel said.

“This report will not contain any material presented to the grand juror, but it will attempt to explain how and why this office acted in the manner it did,” Nessel wrote. “It is our hope that this report will offer a better understanding to the people of Flint and Michigan to whom accountability in this man-made crisis meant the most.”

Nessel ended the statement by distancing herself from the failed prosecution. Her statement finished with highlights of her efforts in the Flint civil case, which resulted in a $626.26 million settlement, the largest in Michigan history.

But in the criminal case, Nessel says she was on the other side of a conflict well-established in 2019, when she took office.

“AG Nessel has had no operational involvement with the criminal prosecutions and focused her efforts on the civil litigation, which resulted in the affected people of Flint receiving the largest civil settlement in the history of our state,” the statement ends.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.