Boeing to be arraigned in court over 2 737 Max jet crashes in Indonesia, Ethiopia
FORT WORTH, Texas– Boeing officials and families of some of the passengers killed in two Boeing 737 Max jet crashes will meet face-to-face Thursday in a courtroom in Texas where the aerospace giant faces charges of which he believed he had settled two years ago.
In a brief Wednesday, lawyers for the families accused Boeing of “committing the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history.”
The family members were never consulted before Boeing struck a deal with the US Department of Justice to avoid prosecution for fraud. About a dozen people from multiple countries are expected to testify about how the loss of loved ones has affected them.
There will be two main stages of the prosecution: Boeing will file a lawsuit, and then the passengers’ families will ask the court to impose conditions on Boeing, just as they would any criminal defendant.
The families said in a filing on Wednesday that those terms should include a court-appointed monitor to assess whether Boeing is creating a culture of safety and ethics — as the government has been promised — and that its steps to do so should be made public .
Boeing has faced civil lawsuits, congressional investigations and massive damage to its business since the crashes in 2018 and 2019, which killed a total of 346 people. However, Boeing and its top officials have avoided prosecution due to the settlement reached between the company and the government in January 2021.
Boeing has been accused of defrauding the United States to get regulators to approve the Max jet. However, the outgoing Trump administration’s Department of Justice agreed to stay prosecution and drop charges if Boeing paid $2.5 billion — mostly to airlines but including a $243.6 million fine and did not commit any other crimes for three years.
US District Judge Reed O’Connor ordered the indictment against Boeing after finding that the Justice Department had violated a victims’ rights statute by not informing families of secret negotiations with Boeing. He did not rule on a separate issue of whether Boeing should lose its immunity from prosecution.
Paul Cassell, a lawyer representing the families, said he hopes testimony from relatives Thursday will persuade the Justice Department to overturn the settlement.
The Biden administration’s Justice Department has not opposed an indictment, but continues to agree with Boeing that the settlement should stand. In a court case last November, the ministry said that without the deal, the government would lose its ability to ensure Boeing enacts reforms aimed at preventing future tragedies.
The first Max passenger flight was in 2017. The first crash occurred in October 2018 in Indonesia, followed by another in March 2019 in Ethiopia.
Before both crashes, an automated flight control system that Boeing initially failed to tell airlines and pilots nosed down due to an erroneous sensor reading. Boeing accused two former employees of misleading the Federal Aviation Administration about the system known by the acronym MCAS.
One of those former employees, a test pilot, is the only person facing criminal charges in connection with the Max. A jury in Judge O’Connor’s courtroom last year found him not guilty.
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