Rick Snyder, the former governor of Michigan, appeared in criminal court Thursday, where he was arraigned on charges stemming from the Flint water crisis that killed 12 people and poisoned many others.
Snyder, 62, entered not guilty pleas Thursday to two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty — charges returned by a grand jury following more than two-year investigation into the water crisis.
Snyder's bond was set at $10,000, but it was not clear Thursday morning if he'd posted that amount for his release.
The charges against Snyder were outlined during a press conference Thursday announcing the charges. The same charges were also filed against former Flint Public Works director Howard Croft, 55.
In addition, onetime Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Medical Executive Eden Wells, 59, was charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of misconduct in office, and one count of neglect of duty. Not guilty pleas were entered on her behalf.
Former state health director Nick Lyon, 53, was also pleaded not guilty to nine counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of willful neglect. Snyder's former Chief of Staff, Jarrod Agen, 43, pleaded not guilty to a single perjury count, and Snyder aide, Richard Baird, entered not guilty pleas to perjury during an investigative subpoena investigation, misconduct in office, obstruction of justice and extortion. His age was not provided.
Darnell Earley, 70, Flint's former finance director, was arraigned on two counts of misconduct in office, and pleaded not guilty to both counts. Former state-appointed emergency manager Gerald Ambrose, 77, was charged with four counts of misconduct in office, to which not guilty pleas were entered.
Nancy Peele, 59, who was the state's director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department, was charged with two felony counts of misconduct in office and one misdemeanor count of willful neglect of duty. She also pleaded not guilty.
Lawyers for the defendants could not be immediately reached for comment.
In 2014, Flint was in dire financial shape. At that time, a manager appointed by Snyder decided to cut city costs by switching its water supply from the Detroit River to the Flint River.
That same summer, thousands of people in the industrial city began complaining about the water's smell and taste. Many reported worrying symptoms, including hair loss, rashes, and seizures.
Tests ordered soon after revealed there was E. coli in Flint's water, leading to a water boiling order in certain parts of the city.
Elected officials denied for over a year that the city's water was also contaminated with lead, but they finally acknowledged that it did in September 2015. Many of the residents effected by what remains the worst environmental disasters in U.S history continue to experience long-term health effects and remain wary of their water.
The contaminated water was blamed for two outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease, a serious type of pneumonia caused by bacteria.
Lead exposure causes long-term harm in both children and adults, though it is particularly harmful to young children. Children exposed to lead can suffer reduced IQ, shortened attention spans, learning disabilities and behavioral issues, the World Health Organization says. The effects of lead exposure are irreversible.
Local reports suggesting prosecutors were preparing charges against Snyder, who served from 2010 to 2018, first started surfacing two months ago. Snyder apologized in 2016 and vowed to fix the situation before leaving office.
Prosecutors said Thursday Snyder's alleged "negligence and indifference" continues to affect Flint residents to this day.
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In August, Michigan announced that it would pay $600 million to the victims of the Flint Water Crisis, but some residents say money doesn't solve leftover issues from the crisis.
More than a dozen civil suits — including ones against the state and Flint officials — have been filed related to the water crisis.
Several residents even sued Snyder for his alleged role in the crisis. That lawsuit is still pending in court.
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