Two Michigan environmental regulators implicated in the Flint water scandal on Wednesday pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor in exchange for more serious charges being dropped, bringing to six the number of officials who have agreed to such deals.
Stephen Busch pleaded no contest to disturbing a public meeting and Michael Prysby pleaded no contest to a count of breaching Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act.
They had been charged with felonies, but those charges and others were dismissed under the terms of their deals that also require them to testify against others, if needed.
A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as such for sentencing purposes. Their sentencings are scheduled for Jan. 23.
The plea from Busch, a water supervisor in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), relates to his failing to address concerns during an unruly January 2015 meeting in which Flint residents complained about the city’s discolored and smelly water after the April 2014 switch from a Detroit-area system to using the Flint River.
Busch, who had faced involuntary manslaughter and other felony charges, said in a Flint courtroom on Wednesday that he had conversations with Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon about Legionella bacteria before March 2015 — many months before Lyon and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder publicly announced a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Flint area. Some experts have blamed the outbreak on the use of the river.
Lyon, a member of Snyder’s Cabinet, is the highest ranking of the 15 state or local officials to be charged in relation to the water crisis .
The plea from Prysby, a DEQ water engineer, relates to the improper permitting of Flint’s water treatment plant during the switch.
Todd Flood, a special prosecutor hired by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, put on the record parts of Prysby’s cooperation to date.
They include statements that the river water was not tested before being distributed to residents, that an environmental order was improperly used to facilitate the financing of a planned move to a new regional water pipeline and that two state-appointed emergency managers were ultimately the ones who decided to put the city’s water treatment plant back into full service before it was ready.
Both Prysby and Busch have been on paid leave. They were among the first officials to be charged in connection to the water crisis, along with a Flint water official who went on to take a deal.
Prysby’s misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. The punishment for Busch’s charge is up to 93 days in jail.
His lawyer, Mark Kriger, declined to comment.
The amended charges for both men are likely to be dismissed in a year if they continue to cooperate and complete probation.
None of the other officials who pled no contest — including Flint’s former utilities director, the state’s disease control director and another DEQ employee — have served time.
Flint ran into extraordinary trouble when the emergency managers appointed by Snyder put the city on water from the river while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron.
The corrosive water was not properly treated due to an incorrect reading of federal rules by state regulators, and lead leached from old pipes into homes and led to elevated levels of the toxin in children.
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of