Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder pleads not guilty to charges in Flint water crisis

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Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder pleaded not guilty on Thursday to two charges related to the Flint water contamination crisis that began several years ago.

The two misdemeanor charges of willful neglect of duty were outlined in a filing late Wednesday. Each charge could result in a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

Snyder, 62, was governor of Michigan in 2014 when the city of Flint switched water sources, from Detroit's main system to the Flint River. It was later found that old infrastructure had contributed to the contamination of the city's water.

The switch has been linked to outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area that killed several people and sickened close to 100. It also caused the lead contamination in the city's drinking water.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel brought the charges against Snyder, who left office in 2019 after two full terms in office.

During Thursday's arraignment, Genesee District Judge Christopher Odette set a personal recognizance bond of $10,000 on each charge and ordered Snyder not to leave the state without the court's permission.

Odette denied a request by Nessel's office for Snyder's passport to be surrendered.

Others arraigned Thursday include Snyder's aide Rich Baird, former Michigan Health Director Nick Lyon, former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft and former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder testifies during a congressional hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency's administration of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Flint, Mich., on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., on March 17, 2016. File Photo by Molly Riley/UPI

On Thursday, Genesee Circuit Judge Elizabeth Kelly entered not guilty pleas to four felony charges against Baird, including extortion, obstruction of justice, perjury during an investigative subpoena examination and misconduct in office.

Baird's attorney Randall Levine said Baird is innocent and being "wrongly prosecuted."

Lyon pleaded not guilty Thursday to nine counts of involuntary manslaughter and a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty. Bond was set at $200,000.

Croft faces two counts of willful neglect of duty by a public officer, with a $10,000 personal bond for each count.

Earley pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of misconduct in office and was released on a $75,000 personal recognizance bond on each count.

Nessel's announcement on Thursday is expected to detail the charges and other aspects of the growing case.

Late last month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved a $640 million trust fund to begin paying out settlements to residents affected by the crisis.

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