DETROIT (AP/CBS DETROIT) — Former Michigan governor Rick Snyder invoked his right to self-incrimination on Thursday, refusing to answer questions during a civil lawsuit over lead contamination in Flint’s water in 2014-15.
Snyder was called as a witness in federal court in Ann Arbor two days after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in a separate case that the charges against him and eight other people were invalid.
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Snyder’s performance was already planned. Lawyers and the judge knew he would formally refuse to answer questions while a criminal case was pending.
“Your Honor, on the advice of counsel, I would exercise my Fifth Amendment rights,” Snyder told U.S. District Judge Judith Levy.
He repeated the statement twice for lawyers. Jurors looked at a taped statement from Snyder on Wednesday, a formal interview with attorneys conducted in 2020.
“I wish this never happened,” Snyder said of Flint’s water mess.
Flint executives appointed by Snyder, a Republican, transferred the city’s water to the Flint River in 2014 without treating it properly. Lead leaked from old pipes for over a year, a disastrous result.
A handful of Flint families are suing Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman, known as LAN, for alleging that the engineering firms bear some responsibility for having worked at the city’s water plant. They deny liability.
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Veolia and LAN are not part of the $626 million settlement between Flint and Michigan residents, Flint and other parties.
Snyder was charged with two offenses of willful dereliction of duty. The charges have not yet been formally dismissed following the decision of the state’s Supreme Court and could be revived in a new case.
Hours after the court’s ruling on the charges, Michigan Attorney General Fadwa Hammoud said she is still willing to prove the charges against them.
In a statement on Tuesday, Hammoud said “these matters are not over yet”.
“We are prepared and determined to prove the charges against the defendants in court and are determined to bring this trial to a successful conclusion.”
Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy were appointed in 2019 by Attorney General Dana Nessel to lead the criminal investigation.
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