5 Michigan Officials Face Manslaughter Charges Over Flint Water Crisis

FLINT, MICH. - Michigan's attorney general charged two new high-ranking state health officials Wednesday in the fourth round of criminal charges to stem from the Flint drinking-water crisis.

Six officials were charged in all — five with involuntary manslaughter — according to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schutte.

"We will turn to the prosecution of this investigation," he said in at a morning news conference. "We are confident that the charges that we have filed will be upheld in the courts."

The director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, both felonies.

The department's chief medical executive, Eden Wells, is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer, also felonies.

Flint's former state emergency manager, Darnell Earley, is charged with involuntary manslaughter. He previously was charged with felony false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office; and a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty.

Flint's former Water Department manager, Howard Croft, is charged with involuntary manslaughter. He previously was charged with false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's drinking water chief, Liane Shekter-Smith, is charged with involuntary manslaughter. She previously was charged with felony misconduct in office and misdemeanor willful neglect of duty.

The district supervisor for the state Office of Drinking Water, Stephen Busch, is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Busch previously was charged with felony misconduct in office, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, and two misdemeanor counts of the Michigan Safe Water Drinking Act.

The latest charges are related to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in 2014 and 2015 in the Flint area that led to 12 deaths after the city's water supply had been switched to the Flint River in April 2014.

No charges are planned against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Schutte said. But his investigation is continuing.

"We have attempted to interview the governor, (but) we were not successful," Schutte said.

Health department officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Lyon, 49, of Marshall, Mich., is accused of causing the death of Robert Skidmore on Dec. 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a foreseeable outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.

"Defendant Lyon was aware of Genesee County's Legionnaires' disease outbreak at least by Jan. 28, 2015, and did not notify the public until a year later," the charging documents allege.

Lyon "willfully disregarded the deadly nature of the Legionnaires' disease outbreak," according to charging document. He later is alleged to have said he "can't save everyone," and "everyone has to die of something."

All of the voluntary manslaughter charges are felonies that could mean a 15-year prison term and a $7,500 fine. Misconduct in office charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Follow Paul Egan, John Wisely and Elisha Anderson on Twitter: @paulegan4@Jwisely and @elishaanderson

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