Rick Snyder, the former governor of Michigan, pleaded not guilty on Thursday after he was charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty in the Flint water crisis.
Snyder, a 62-year-old Republican, was one of nine people indicted after a probe into the public health disaster in the majority Black city. © Jake MayFormer Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder pleaded not guilty on Thursday.
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder pleaded not guilty on Thursday. (Jake May/)
Snyder appeared by video in Genesee County court on Thursday, wearing a dark jacket and a gray mask as he beamed into a courtroom from a jail booth in Flint.
Asked by Judge Christopher Odette if he was still living in Michigan, Snyder said: "Yes, your honor." The former governor sat beside his lawyer Brian Lennon.
Syder, who left office two years ago, was leading the state when Flint first grappled with contaminated tap water following a water-source switch in 2014.
The lead-tainted water that flowed through Flint pipes was linked to a local outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that killed a dozen people, and the crisis has hung over the city ever since. © Provided by New York Daily NewsCleophus Mooney looks at cases of water in his Flint home last year.
Cleophus Mooney looks at cases of water in his Flint home last year. (SETH HERALD/)
The governor, who has apologized for the crisis, faces two misdemeanor counts punishable by imprisonment of up to a year in jail or a maximum fine of $1,000. In the grand jury indictment, the date of the offense is listed as spanning between April 2014 and December 2018.
In a statement, Snyder's lawyer described the case as weak and expressed confidence that the former governor would be exonerated in a trial.
"It would be a travesty to waste additional taxpayer dollars pursuing these bogus misdemeanor charges," Lennon said in the statement.
A pretrial hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday and Snyder was released on bond.
Among those charged after the investigation were Jarrod Agen, Snyder's former chief off staff; Nick Lyon, the former director of the state's health department; Howard Croft, the former head of Flint's department of public works; Darnell Earley, the city's former emergency manger; and Eden Wells, the former chief medical executive in the state's health department.
Lyon and Wells both face involuntary manslaughter charges.
"We must remember that the Flint Water Crisis is not some relic of the past," Fadwa Hammoud, the state's solicitor general, said in a statement. "At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials."