We were not surprised when the Michigan Attorney General’s office dropped all Flint criminal prosecutions last week due to weak evidence. Thirty months ago, we realized Special Prosecutor Todd Flood was so myopically focused on allegations of professors associated with the Flint Area Community Health and Environmental Partnership (FACHEP), that he was failing to gather appropriate evidence on actual Flint Water Crisis crimes.
Recall that it was the testimony of professors Drs. Shawn McElmurry, Mark Zervos and Paul Kilgore of Wayne State University (WSU) that caused Flood to charge Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) employee Dr. Eden Wells with felony obstruction of justice, for “threatening to withhold funding” from the Flint Area Community Health and Environmental Partnership (FACHEP).
That’s right. There are possible crimes associated with the original decision to use Flint River water, elevated lead in children’s blood lead due to an acknowledged failure to follow Federal law, deaths from Legionnaire’s disease, and a cover up of water quality problems that occurred in 2014 and 2015. Yet Flood decided to prosecute a crime that allegedly occurred on a State-funded research grant after the Federal Emergency was declared, based on testimony of professors who did nothing of substance in Flint until late 2016.
In the Wells and Lyon pre-trials, the FACHEP professors testified for days and days, complaining that the State reduced their initial 2016 funding request of $13 million dollars to $4 million dollars, their grant was delayed, and they felt threatened in a phone call with Dr. Wells (amongst other petty issues). In the meantime, pre-trial evidence presented relative to crimes occurring in 2014-2015 was mostly limited to what Flintwaterstudy (and others) revealed long ago through Freedom of Information Act requests.
LeeAnne Walters, Keri Webber, and Virginia Tech’s Dr. Edwards, realized in early 2017 that Flood was so obsessed by the claims of FACHEP faculty, that he was not appropriately emphasizing discovery of evidence for other illegal activity. In May 2017, after our personal experiences caused us to question the credibility of FACHEP faculty, LeeAnne Walters and Dr. Edwards filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for WSU emails. In 2018, Dr. Edwards and Dr. Masten (a former FACHEP member and Professor at Michigan State University) independently alleged to the Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) that Dr. McElmurry exaggerated his professional qualifications to win his Flint research funding.
The LARA investigation that ended in early 2019, confirmed McElmurry did exaggerate his qualifications. We had to file a lawsuit with assistance of lawyers from Mackinac Center to force WSU to release hundreds of withheld FACHEP emails, and then authored 15 blogs in 2019 that cast serious doubt on their allegations. We documented obvious inconsistencies in McElmurry’s sworn testimony about work “in Flint” and his false claim about having a complete hydraulic model of the Flint water system in 2015.
We even obtained a recording of the original phone call between Dr. Wells and FACHEP in which the alleged “threats” to withhold funding were made—the recording does not sound like a threat to an objective listener, especially considering that Dr. Wells was dealing with misinformation provided to the public by FACHEP faculty.
Flood’s preoccupation with the alleged FACHEP felony also alienated several individuals who helped expose the Flint Water Crisis in the first place. For instance, both Dr. Edwards and LeeAnne Walters were originally listed as fact witnesses for the prosecution. However, Flood repeatedly promised, and failed, to provide Walters with written documentation regarding evidence supporting FACHEP’s allegations. Flood and his team were also completely disorganized in handling Walters testimony. Eventually, Walters lost trust in Flood, to the point she refused to meet with him unless her personal attorney was also present.
Dr. Edwards and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha were never called by Flood as fact witnesses in his case against Dr. Wells. In fact, their testimony, was eventually subpoenaed by defense attorneys. It is heart-breaking to realize that millions and millions of dollars and years of effort, were spent investigating and prosecuting an alleged FACHEP felony, at the expense of gathering real evidence and prosecuting the actual crimes that occurred in 2014-2015.
Worst of all, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) employees, who arguably have the most criminal culpability for the Flint Water Crisis (including doctored reports, wrongly invalidated samples and lying to the EPA in writing), were given plea bargains in exchange for their promise to testify against others. While we wonder if everyone charged at MDEQ was guilty of crimes, we believe that some were, and these employees are now returning back to work.
We hope that the new prosecutors invest their energy and resources, investigating crimes that occurred in 2014-2015, and not “crybully” complaints of FACHEP faculty who did nothing of substance in Flint until late 2016. Strong cases can still be brought against those responsible, based on the existing evidence and that which can still be discovered.
All of the Flintwaterstudy blogs and documentation on this misunderstood issue are linked below, for anyone who wants to better understand how such an unthinkable waste of taxpayer funding and prosecutorial energy could occur. More blogs on the still relevant FACHEP fiasco will be forthcoming.
Primary Author: Dr. Marc A. Edwards
FLINTWATERSTUDY INVESTIGATIVE SCIENCE REPORTING
FACHEP versus the People of the State of Michigan