Judge: Ex-Michigan Gov. Snyder must testify in Flint water civil trial

FILE - Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Jan. 23, 2018. A year after unprecedented charges against the former governor, the Flint water prosecution of Snyder and eight others is moving slowly, bogged down by disputes over millions of documents and even whether some cases were filed in the proper court. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File) (Al Goldis, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and several other officials must testify in a civil trial involving engineering firms being sued over liability for lead-contaminated water connected to the Flint water crisis, a judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy denied motions by Snyder, his former advisor, two former state-appointed emergency managers and an ex-Flint city official to quash subpoenas compelling them to testify.

Snyder, a Republican, faces misdemeanor charges in the water crisis. His attorney has said Snyder would invoke his right to remain silent if called as a witness in the ongoing civil trial in federal court in Ann Arbor.

Jason Brown, a spokesman for Snyder’s legal team, said in a statement that “there is another easy solution here.”

“The Attorney General should drop the misdemeanor charges against Gov. Snyder with prejudice and he will be happy to testify on behalf of the state and taxpayers. As he has proven time and again, he is willing and able to help,” Brown's statement said.

Attorneys for four Flint children claim Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman were negligent in not doing more to get the city to properly treat water that was being pulled from the Flint River in 2014-15. Corrosive water caused lead to leach from service lines serving homes, a disastrous result in the majority Black community.

They were not part of a $626 million settlement between Flint residents and the state of Michigan, the city and two other parties.

Snyder and the other officials already have given detailed deposition testimony — on-the-record interviews — with lawyers in the lawsuit without appealing "to their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination,” Levy wrote in her opinion.

“Each ... voluntarily testified during the deposition phase of this case, and now wishes to invoke the privilege against self-incrimination on the same subject matter,” Levy continued. “They cannot do so.”

A hearing will be held to determine how the court will address specific arguments during the trial where their answers could expose them to risk of self-incrimination.

There is no safe level of lead. It can harm a child’s brain development and cause attention and behavior problems.