Facts from the courtroom
June 29, 2022

Darnell Earley invokes his 5th Amendment right to avoid answering questions about Flint

On June 22 and 28, 2022, Darnell Earley’s video deposition was played in court. Mr. Earley was appointed to serve as Emergency Manager in Flint from October 2013 to January 2015 by former Governor Rick Snyder. During this time, he oversaw the City’s transition in water source from DWSD to the Flint River in April 2014. 

Even though the Flint Water Treatment Plant (FWTP) was not prepared to distribute drinking water safely, Mr. Earley persisted in moving forward with the switch. Later, despite mounting evidence that the water was causing serious health problems for the people of Flint, Mr. Earley insisted that the water was safe and resisted calls to return to DWSD.

Rather than take the stand and answer questions in person in front of the jury, Mr. Earley invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In March of 2022, he joined with other indicted government officials in expressing, through his lawyer, that he would sooner go to jail for contempt of court than answer questions if forced to testify. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Mr. Earley ignored evidence that the water was causing serious health problems and went to great lengths to mislead the public into believing the water was safe. 

  • Mr. Earley testified that by September 2014, just five months after the switch, he knew that the citizens of Flint had already lodged numerous complaints about their water.
  • In October 2014, Mr. Earley asked the MDEQ to issue an “unequivocal statement” that the water was safe, saying that such a statement would “help us build public confidence and stronger communication on how we’re responding to the challenges we encounter;” the MDEQ never issued such a statement.

Mr. Earley repeatedly refused to consider offers and suggestions to return to DWSD. His concern was on saving money not public health and safety.  

  • DWSD offered to continue supplying water to Flint beyond April 2014, but Mr. Earley rejected this offer without even discussing it with City officials.
  • Mr. Earley testified that despite numerous complaints about the water quality and even after the City had been forced to issue boil water advisories in October and November 2014, he still never considered returning to Detroit.
  • In January 2015, after the DWSD again offered to reconnect the City of Flint to its water supply, Mr. Earley testified that he did not respond to the offer and that switching back would not have been “feasible because the City didn’t have any money.” 

Mr. Earley authorized the distribution of water from the FWTP even though he did nothing to personally make sure that the plant was ready to distribute water safely.

  • Mr. Earley testified that he relied solely on the word of public works officials Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson with regard to the readiness of the Flint Water Treatment Plant. 
  • Mr. Earley testified that he assumed it was safe to use the Flint River as an interim water source because the MDEQ approved it. 
  • When asked if he ever gave instructions to City personnel about what, as Emergency Manager, he would require them to do to ensure the safety of the water, Mr. Earley replied that he did not.