- Former Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder and several aides were charged with crimes related to the Flint water crisis.
- Michigan prosecutors used a one man grand jury process to file the charges, which Snyder’s attorneys called ‘politically motivated.’
- The judge who sat as the grand juror has a history of donating money to the campaigns of Flint and Genesee County Democrats.
Judge David J. Newblatt, who approved multiple charges for Michigan Republicans related to the Flint water crisis, has a history of donating to Genesee County Democrats.
Normally presiding over Genesee County’s Infant and Toddler Treatment Court, Newblatt has sat on Michigan’s Seventh Judicial Circuit Court since he was first elected in 2004. Before that, he served as a Genesee County prosecutor.
7th Circuit Chief Judge Duncan Beagle appointed Newblatt to serve as a one man grand jury in the Flint case, according to MLive. The use of a grand jury process is uncommon in Michigan, former prosecutor and law professor Anthony Flores told MLive. In his role as one man grand juror, Newblatt heard evidence presented by prosecutors under the supervision of Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Newblatt ultimately approved charges against former governor Rick Snyder and eight others. An assistant in Chief Judge Beagle’s office redirected the Daily Caller’s request for comment on how Newblatt was assigned to the case to the Genesee County Clerk’s Office. The Genesee County Clerk’s Office declined the Daily Caller’s request for comment on the judicial assignment process for the grand jury, citing the secretive nature of the proceedings.
Describing the charges as “meritless,” Snyder’s attorney Brian Lennon told the Detroit Free Press, “It is deeply disappointing to see pure political motivation driving charging decisions.” Only Republicans were charged with crimes. Lennon declined a request for comment from the Daily Caller, saying that he could not comment due to his ongoing legal effort. The mayor of Flint and eight out of nine Genesee County commissioners were Democrats in 2015, when the water crisis drew national attention.
Newblatt’s partisan identification is not known, since Michigan voters do not register by party and judicial elections are non-partisan. However, in the 2000s, Newblatt donated money to three politicians who currently hold elected offices in Genesee County, where Flint is located. A fourth recipient of campaign funding is the brother of a Genesee County elected official.
Newblatt declined a request for comment from the Daily Caller, saying that he could not comment on an ongoing criminal investigation.
Newblatt donated $95 in 2003 and $250 in 2005 to the state senate campaigns of Deb Cherry. Cherry served as a state senator from Burton, in Genesee County, from 2003 to 2010. She resigned from the senate to take over as Genesee County Treasurer, a position she currently holds. The 2003 donations were made before Newblatt was elected judge, but the largest donation was made once he was seated on the bench.
Cherry recently announced that Flint homeowners would not have to pay off water bill liens on their homes, ABC 12 reported. Commercial property owners still have to pay their water bills.
Deb’s brother John Cherry also received campaign contributions from Newblatt. John Cherry served as Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor from 2003 to 2011 under Democrat Jennifer Granholm. He also ran for governor in 2010 before dropping out of the race due to lack of funding, according to Crain’s Detroit. Newblatt donated $100 to Cherry’s lieutenant governor fund in 2008. When Cherry ran for governor, Newblatt donated $1,050 to him.
Newblatt also donated to John J. Gleason’s campaigns for state legislature in 2001 and 2003. Gleason currently serves as Genesee County Clerk, a position he has held since 2013, according to MLive.
Genesee County Commissioner Brenda Clack received campaign funds from Newblatt in 2004, when she ran for state legislature. Clack was first elected to a County Commissioner position in 2009.
Clack was part of a group of Genesee County officials who told Flint residents not to drink the water that came from the City of Flint’s supply. She and two other commissioners made that announcement in October 2015, more than a year after Flint residents first noticed changes in the color, smell, and taste of the water, according to MLive. The timeline is relevant because Snyder and his aides were charged with willful neglect of duty, which means that they did not perform in a timely manner actions which they were “enjoined by law” to perform, according to ABC 7 Detroit. (RELATED: REPORT: EPA Delayed Helping Flint Fix Lead-Tainted Water)
Snyder’s lawyers are currently arguing that the Genesee County charges approved by Newblatt should be dismissed over jurisdiction issues, according to Click On Detroit. District Court Judge William Crawford will consider that petition.