Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged five state and local water officials with involuntary manslaughter Wednesday for their roles in a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak during the Flint water crisis, according to numerous news reports. All five were blamed in the December 2015 death of an 85-year-old man who had Legionnaires’ disease.
There were nearly 100 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including 12 deaths, during the 2014-15 crisis, which coincided with the city’s April 2014 decision to use the Flint River as a water source.
Involuntary manslaughter charges for an alleged failure to act were filed against Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Nick Lyon, former Flint emergency manager Darnell Early, former Flint Department of Public Works director Howard Croft, former Michigan Department of Environmental Qualify Office of Drinking Water chief Liane Shekter-Smith, and DEQ District Supervisor Stephen Busch. If found guilty, the five could face up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $7,500, and restitution to the victim’s family.
In a probable-cause statement filed by prosecutors, Lyon – the highest ranking state official charged – is accused of having received notice of the Legionnaires’ outbreak at least a year before informing the public and the governor.
The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eden Wells, also was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to an investigator and could face up to 7 years if convicted, bringing the number to 15 current and former state and local officials who have been charged in Schuette’s investigation.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s office issued a statement in support of Lyon and Wells, stating the two “have my full faith and confidence and will remain on duty at DHHS.”