Updated at 9:28 p.m. ET
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis, an environmental disaster that contaminated the majority Black city’s drinking water with lead nearly seven years ago.
Snyder is facing two counts of willful neglect of duty and if convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
Other former members of his administration are expected to face charges as well, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this week, as reports began to surface that charges were looming, an attorney for Snyder referred to them as “a politically motivated smear campaign,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
Snyder, a Republican, was Michigan’s top executive when state-appointed officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in 2014.
It stems from a decision billed as a way to save money and only supposed to be a temporary fix while officials built a pipeline to nearby Lake Huron. But it turned out to be costly, both in lives lost and in a settlement worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Pending settlement for victims
Last year Nessel announced a $600 million-dollar settlement for Flint families impacted by the water crisis last year.
The deal “puts the needs of children first,” she said during the August announcement.
Young people were especially vulnerable, at risk of suffering long-term cognitive challenges and other health issues from being exposed to lead contamination in the water.
As NPR’s Bill Chappell reported at the time the settlement indicated that nearly 80% of the funds were earmarked to resolved claims filed on behalf of children and minors.
The remaining portion of the settlement is expected to be divvied up among other Flint residents who fell ill from the contaminated water or suffered property damage, Michigan Public Radio reports.
But a U.S. District Court judge is expected to soon rule on whether to give…