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Manslaughter charge sought against top Michigan medical executive in Flint water crisis

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FLINT, Mich. — New charges of involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office are being sought against the state’s top medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, in connection with the Flint water crisis.
Todd Flood, the special counsel handing the case for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office, made the announcement Monday in a Flint courtroom.

Wells, who already faces two charges — obstruction of justice, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and lying to a peace officer, a misdemeanor — appeared in court Monday for her preliminary examination. The hearing, which determines if the case proceeds to trial, was pushed back after Flood announced that he plans to seek the new charges.

A judge will determine whether to authorize the new charges at the conclusion of the exam, which now is set for Nov. 6 before 67th District Court Judge William Crawford II.

In June, prosecutors accused Wells of knowingly giving false testimony to an investigator and threatening to withhold funding from the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if it did not stop investigating the source of outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area. She is also accused of willfully making a false statement about the date she knew about the outbreak in Genesee County.

The disease, a severe type of pneumonia, started after Flint changed its water supply source to the Flint River in April 2014. It is linked to at least a dozen deaths in 2014 and 2015, and dozens more people were sickened during that time period. The source hasn’t been definitely linked to the water change, but some experts have blamed the water on increased cases.

Wells started her position in May 2015, according to a court document. In it, her attorneys said the factual allegations upon what the charges are flawed. At the end of the hearing, the defense will request the court not send the case to circuit court for trial “both on legal grounds and insufficient evidence,” the document said.
The prosecution alleges that Wells lied when she said she had no knowledge of the outbreak until late September 2015 or early October of that year.

“Contrary to her testimony, defendant Wells knew about the outbreak as early as March 2015,” a court document filed in June said.

Wells is one of 15 people to be charged criminally in connection with Schuette’s investigation into the Flint water crisis. Two of the defendants have taken plea deals in their cases.

Only one other defendant’s preliminary examination has started. Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, was in court Friday for it. During his hearing, a top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder testified he told the governor about the Legionnaires’ outbreak in December, the month before Snyder has said he found out.

Lyon faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office. His preliminary examination is set to resume Nov. 1.

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