DETROIT – 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.
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.
In May, Levy said Snyder had waived his right to remain silent by participating in the deposition before he was charged in 2021. Her decision is under appeal.
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.
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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