FLINT, MI — A former Flint emergency department official is the latest witness to refuse to testify in a civil lawsuit in federal court, citing his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a separate criminal proceeding.
Darnell Earley, who served as Flint’s emergency manager when the city switched its water source to the Flint River in April 2014, appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, July 5 — long enough to telling Judge Judith E. Levy that he would not answer questions about his role in the water crisis.
“I affirm the Fifth Amendment right not to answer,” Earley told Levy before leaving the courtroom.
“I understand the issue is going through the (US) Court of Appeals and we’ll find out what they say,” the judge said before excusing Earley on Tuesday.
Levy had ruled that five potential witnesses in the civil lawsuit waived their Fifth Amendment rights when they gave depositions in the civil lawsuit about two years ago – before being charged with crimes related to the crisis. Flint water.
The five, including former Governor Richard Snyder, appealed his decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has scheduled oral arguments on the issue for July 28, likely after the eight-person jury in the civil case will have rendered its verdict.
In addition to Earley, Gerald Ambrose, another former emergency manager; Howard Croft, former director of the Flint Department of Public Works; and Snyder have now declined to testify. Richard Baird, a former senior adviser to Snyder, also indicated that he would also plead the Fifth if called as a witness.
The civil lawsuit involves four Flint children who sued two companies that advised the city of Flint during its water crisis.
The children’s lawyers say their clients suffered acquired brain damage from lead in Flint’s drinking water and say the counseling companies are partly responsible for those damages.
The companies – Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam – disputed the children’s alleged injuries and said government officials were solely responsible for the high lead levels in Flint’s water.
The Flint trial is scheduled to continue at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 6, with Veolia expert Dr. John Gaitanis, a pediatric neurologist, expected to testify. Following his testimony, a videotaped deposition of former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulator Miguel Del Toral is set to be played before the jury.
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