Two Officials Plead No Contest in Flint Water Contamination Case

By MCNS Staff

Stephen Busch (left) and Michael Prysby (right) took plea deals in connection with the Flint water poisoning controversy.

Stephen Busch (left) and Michael Prysby (right) took plea deals in connection with the Flint water poisoning controversy.

Two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials pleaded no contest to misdemeanors Wednesday and agreed to testify against other defendants in the criminal cases arising from the Flint drinking water contamination case.

Michael Prysby, 55, of Bath and Stephen Busch, 42, of DeWitt are the fifth and sixth defendants of fifteen who were charged through the state Attorney General’s Office to enter pleas for criminal charges with connection to the city of Flint, Michigan.

All of the pleas to date have been no contest pleas to misdemeanors with agreements to cooperate in prosecuting other defendants. No contest pleas are generally treated similarly to guilty pleas for sentencing purposes.

Todd Flood, the Flint prosecutor hired by the Attorney General’s Office, said he was accepting the pleas because of “substantial assistance being given to move the ball down the field in the Flint water investigation,” likely to the African-American Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who is facing involuntary manslaughter and other charges regarding a legionella bacteria breakout that took place prior to March 2015.

Michael Prysby, a state drinking water official, pleaded no contest to one count under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, related to the issuance of permits for the Flint Water Treatment Plant. He was also cited for approving the start-up of the plant in April 2014, before it was ready to properly treat water from the Flint River and distribute it for human consumption.

Stephen Busch, the Lansing district coordinator for the DEQ’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of causing a disturbance in a public building.

Genesee District Judge David Goggins was informed that as long as Mr. Prysby cooperates and follows the terms of his probation, that charge and other more serious charges against him are expected to be dismissed. Charges that were initially brought against him included several felonies including two counts of misconduct in office and one count each of conspiracy to tamper with evidence and tampering with evidence.

The court was also informed that Mr. Busch, who faced charges similar to Mr. Prysby’s, will also be placed on probation for one year and have his charges dismissed in return for cooperation. The sentencing date for both Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch is Jan. 23.

In 2016, in a move to save money, the state switched Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a tributary that was notorious for its filth. Additionally, the Department of Environmental Quality failed to treat the corrosive water, which ate into the city’s iron and lead pipes, causing lead to leach into the drinking water.

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