Fate of highest ranking official charged over water crisis is in judge’s hands

Genesee County District Court Judge David Goggins listens to arguments from attorney's in the hearings against Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon. (Photo Credit: Drew Moore/WSMH)

The hearings against Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon have last more than ten months, with hundreds of hours of testimony.

Attorneys for both sides making their final stands in Genesee County court during oral arguments in his pretrial hearings on Wednesday.

Lyon is facing multiple charges, including involuntary manslaughter, for what the prosecution says is Lyon’s lack of action to alert the public about a deadly Legionnaire’s outbreak in 2014 and 2015.

Special Prosecutor Todd Flood says Lyon was in a position of power to alert the public earlier.

“What we have proved is a willful disregard knowing that someone was going to get sick, and someone was going to die. No one is above the law. This man was invested with powers to protect us, not hide anything from us,” Flood says.

Defense Attorney John Bursch represented the embattled director in court.

He believes that prosecuting a director for the actions of his employees is dangerous.

“You’ve got someone who is the head of a department with 14,000 people. He took a serious problem and gave it to his best people who are experts in the subject. He should not be criminally liable for their actions,” Bursch says.

Both sides walking away believing the judge will rule in their favor.

“There are only two defenses in criminal law. Either someone admits to doing something and they have an excuse as to why they did it. Or they say they didn’t do something and blame it on someone else. That’s what they tried to do today. They didn’t say covering up the outbreak didn’t happen, they just blamed it on someone else,” Flood explained.

Bursch, who has argued cases in front of the Supreme Court, feels his client will be cleared of the charges.

“When you get to the end of the day you have to demonstrate that every element of the charges have been satisfied. We are so far from being there that there’s no way these charges will be bound over,” Bursch says.

Genesee County District Judge David Goggins will make his ruling on July 25.