Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will face involuntary manslaughter charges as he goes on trial.
(Terray Sylvester/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP, File)
A judge on Monday ordered Michigan state health director to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of two men linked to an outbreak of legionnaire’s disease in the Flint area.
Nick Lyon is accused of not issuing a timely warning to the public about the outbreak. Judge David Goggins said the deaths likely could have been prevented if the outbreak had been generally known.
Some experts blame Legionnaires on the scandal about Flint’s water, which is not correctly treated when it was pulled from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015.
Goggins found there is probable cause for a trial. The legal standard is not as high as beyond a reasonable doubt.
The state says at least 90 cases of Legionnaires ‘ occurred in Genesee County, including 12 dead. Lyon denies misconduct. His lawyers say that the sending of the case to the trial “dangerous chill” employees.
The Legionnaires ‘ research is part of a larger investigation of how Flint’s water system was poisoned when the city used Flint River water for 18 months. The water was not treated to reduce corrosion. As a result, lead leached from old pipes.
Lyon, director of the Department of public Health, is the highest Michigan official charged in an investigation led by the attorney general’s office.
An additional 14 current or former state and local officials are charged with crimes, either in connection with Legionnaires or lead in the water. Four agreed to misdemeanor plea deals; the other cases slowly.
Legionella bacteria can be caused by misting and cooling systems, which is a severe form of pneumonia, especially in people with a weakened immune system. The state says there were 90 reported cases of the Genesee County Health Department in 2014-15, including 12 dead. More than half of the people had a common thread: They spent time at McLaren Hospital, that was on the Flint water system.
The outbreak was announced by Gov Rick Snyder and Lyon in January 2016, although Lyon admits that he knew that there are reported cases of a year earlier.
“He had the opportunity to save lives,” special prosecutor Todd Flood told the court on 25 July to hear.
But Lyon’s lawyers have asked the question what the causes of the death of two people, quoted by Flood. They also say, there was much speculation about the cause and not enough good information to share with the public.
“It is not enough for the prosecutor waving his hands in the air and scream bad things happened to the people of Flint so someone should be held responsible, ‘Lyon’ s lawyers said in a court filing.