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Michigan Supreme Court voids indictments against former state officials related to Flint water crisis

By Lauren del Valle, CNN

The indictments against former top Michigan state officials for their alleged culpability in the Flint water crisis were deemed invalid Tuesday.

A panel of Michigan Supreme Court judges said that prosecutors in Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office made a procedural error when a Genesee County Circuit Court judge serving as a one-man grand jury handed down indictments for nine former state officials last year including former Gov. Rick Snyder. The judges called the action “alarming.”

Michigan state laws do not authorize a judge to issue indictments as a one-man grand jury without a preliminary examination, which was not done in this case, the Supreme Court ruled.

Prosecutors argued they had the discretion to opt out of a preliminary examination for the former state officials when the Genesee County Circuit judge handed down the indictments.

In Michigan, a preliminary examination is used by prosecutors and defense attorneys to present evidence and testimony prior to an indictment.

Three former state officials appealed on the matter, eventually bringing the issue to the state Supreme Court.

Snyder was not one of them. The former governor’s legal team will motion to have the charges against the governor dismissed based on the opinion, according to a statement from Snyder’s legal team.

CNN has reached out to Snyder’s office for comment. Snyder’s legal counsel previously told CNN that his client was being made into a scapegoat by a politically driven special counsel.

Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud said the prosecution team will continue to pursue the charges.

“Our reading is that the Court’s opinion interprets the one-man grand jury process to require charges to be filed at the district court and include a preliminary examination. Our team is prepared to move forward through that process,” Hammoud said in a statement about the ruling.

“We are prepared and determined to prove the allegations against the defendants in court and are committed to seeing this process through to its conclusion.”

Despite voiding the indictments, the Supreme Court acknowledged the severity of allegations connected to the Flint water crisis.

“If the allegations can be proved, it is impossible to fully state the magnitude of the damage state actors have caused to an innocent group of people — a group of people that they were entrusted to serve. The Flint water crisis stands as one of this country’s greatest betrayals of citizens by their government,” the opinion says.

“Yet the prosecution of these defendants must adhere to proper procedural requirements because of the magnitude of the harm that was done to Flint residents.”

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