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Judge hearing dispute over proper venue in Flint water case

Last Updated Feb 23, 2021 at 3:03 am PST

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2018, file photo, then, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. A pretrial hearing is scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, for Snyder, who is accused of two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Mich., and a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

FLINT, Mich. — A judge plans to hear arguments Tuesday in a dispute over whether Flint water prosecutors charged a former Michigan governor in the wrong county.

Lawyers for Rick Snyder want two misdemeanour charges to be dismissed. They argue that Snyder worked in Ingham County, not Genesee County, so the indictment returned by a one-man grand jury in Flint should not stand.

Snyder, a Republican, is charged with wilful neglect of duty. Emergency managers who were appointed by Snyder to run Flint switched the city’s water source to the Flint River in 2014-15 while a new pipeline was being built from Lake Huron.

The river water wasn’t treated to reduce corrosion, resulting in lead contamination from old pipes. Separately, the water was blamed for a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The catastrophe in the impoverished, majority-Black city has been described as an example of environmental injustice and racism.

“The indictments are sound. … It is incoherent to suggest that breaching a duty owed to the people of a particular city does not entail a sufficient connection to that city to establish venue there,” prosecutors said last week in a response to Snyder’s motion.

But if Genesee is not the right county, then the case should be transferred to Ingham and not dismissed, prosecutors said.

Snyder was one of nine people charged in January. Two people who were senior health officials in his administration were charged with involuntary manslaughter for nine deaths linked to Legionnaires’ disease.

The Associated Press