Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s criminal defense team contends he can’t be tried for willful neglect of duty in the Flint water crisis because he wasn’t physically in Genesee County when the alleged crimes occurred.
Snyder’s attorneys filed a motion Tuesday morning in Genesee County’s 67th District Court seeking evidence from state prosecutors that the two-term governor was in Flint when he allegedly failed to supervise underlings and not declare a state of emergency sooner over the city’s lead-tainted water.
The motion was part of a request that District Court Judge William Crawford order the attorney general’s office to provide Snyder’s defense team with all records related to their investigation, which resulted in grand jury indictments against Snyder and eight other key figures in Flint’s water crisis
Crawford held the first pretrial conference hearing Tuesday morning since Snyder was arraigned Thursday on two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty, a crime punishable by up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine.
Snyder attorney Brian Lennon of Warner Norcross + Judd LLP said he plans to file another motion later this week seeking to have the indictment dismissed on grounds that Snyder can’t be tried in Genesee County when he made governing decisions related to Flint while in Lansing.
Lennon disclosed the plan to challenge the venue of the charges in a letter sent Monday night to Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who was tapped by Attorney General Dana Nessel to lead the state’s investigation of the Flint water crisis that exposed thousands of residents to elevated levels of toxic lead.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Lennon called the indictment against the former Republican governor “fatally flawed.”
“The reason we didn’t file the motion to dismiss (today) is we’re trying to give the government an opportunity to recognize its mistake and voluntarily dismiss its indictment against Governor Snyder,” Lennon said.
State law says the “venue in criminal actions for violations of state law … shall be in the county where the violation took place.”
“At all times set forth in the indictment, our client was the presiding governor of the state of Michigan with the Executive Office of the Governor located at the Romney Building in downtown Lansing,” Lennon wrote in the letter to Hammoud. “Consequently, the proper venue is in the city of Lansing located in Ingham County — not the city of Flint.”
Assistant Attorneys General Bryant Osikowicz and Molly Kettler did not respond to Lennon’s comments about why the venue for the charges.
Snyder, two former top aides and six other state and Flint officials were indicted by a one-man grand jury, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge David Newblatt, who was appointed the court’s chief judge, Duncan Beagle, to serve as the judicial grand juror — a rarely used prosecutorial tool.
The issue of venue may also get raised by the other defendants. Snyder’s former chief of staff Jarrod Agen and senior…