Michigan’s medical chief to stand trial on Flint charges
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s chief medical executive will stand trial on involuntary manslaughter and other charges in a criminal investigation over the Flint water crisis, a judge ruled Friday, making Dr. Eden Wells the second member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Cabinet to go before a jury.
Wells is among six current or former government officials facing involuntary manslaughter charges in connection to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area in 2014 and 2015. Wells is now the second high-ranking state official, along with Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, to be ordered to trial .
Wells, who like Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public of the spike in Legionnaires’ cases in a timely manner and causing the death of 85-year-old John Snyder, learned of the trial decision from Judge William Crawford II inside a Flint courtroom. The 55-year-old from Ann Arbor also faces charges of obstructing justice, lying to an investigator and committing misconduct in office.
She denied any wrongdoing.
‘‘Dr. Wells is not guilty of these manufactured crimes and we will continue to fight as long as it takes to achieve a just result,’’ said Steven Tramontin, one of her attorneys.
Her legal team said Wells, who took the job in May 2015, was not informed of the 2014-15 epidemic until September or October of 2015, months before the governor and Lyon informed the public. They also said that even if she had known, there was no ‘‘legal duty’’ to alert residents, and there is no evidence that John Snyder died of Legionnaires’ disease.
Wells also denied allegations that she told a county health department to not notify the public, that she interfered with the work of university researchers and that she lied about when she learned of the outbreak.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged Wells last year.