Ex-Michigan governor pleads the fifth, will not answer questions about Flint’s contaminated water

Flint managers appointed by Snyder, a Republican, switched the city’s water to the Flint River in 2014 without properly treating it. Lead leached from old pipes for more than a year, a disastrous result.

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Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder invoked his right against self-incrimination Thursday and declined to answer questions at a civil trial arising from lead contamination in Flint’s water in 2014-15.

Snyder was called as a witness in federal court in Ann Arbor, two days after the Michigan Supreme Court in a separate case said criminal indictments against him and eight other people were invalid.

In this March 21, 2016, file photo, the Flint Water Plant water tower is seen in Flint, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Snyder’s appearance was already planned. Lawyers and the judge knew he would formally decline to answer questions while any criminal case was pending.

“Your honor, based on the advice of counsel, I would exercise my Fifth Amendment rights,” Snyder told U.S. District Judge Judith Levy.

He repeated the statement twice to lawyers. Jurors on Wednesday watched a recorded deposition of Snyder, a formal interview with lawyers conducted in 2020.

“I wish this never would have happened,” Snyder said of the Flint water mess.

Flint managers appointed by Snyder, a Republican, switched the city’s water to the Flint River in 2014 without properly treating it. Lead leached from old pipes for more than a year, a disastrous result.

FILE – This screen shot from video, shows former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, during his Zoom hearing in the 67th District Court in Flint, Mich., on Jan. 18, 2020. A judge had no authority to issue indictments in the Flint water scandal, the Michigan Supreme Court said Tuesday, June 28, 2022 in an extraordinary decision that wipes out charges against former Gov. Snyder, his health director and seven other people (67th District Court in Flint via AP, file)

A handful of Flint families are suing Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman, known as LAN, claiming the engineering firms bear some responsibility because they performed work at the city’s water plant. They deny liability.

Veolia and LAN are not part of the $626 million settlement between Flint residents and the state of Michigan, Flint and other parties.

Snyder was charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. The charges haven’t been formally dismissed yet following the state Supreme Court decision and could be revived in a new case.

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