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Families object to Boeing’s plea deal with Justice Department

written by Newsdesk | July 9, 2024

Families object to Boeing's plea deal with Justice Department

The US Justice Department has announced that Boeing will plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

The announcement came in a court filing with federal district court Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas on Sunday.

Families who lost loved ones in two Boeing 737 MAX crashes quickly filed an objection to the deal in the same court.

The families’ notice stated that “the plea deal with Boeing unfairly makes concessions to Boeing that other criminal defendants would never receive and fails to hold Boeing accountable for the deaths of 346 persons”.

“As a result, the generous plea agreement rests on deceptive and offensive premises,” according to the objection filed in federal district court in Texas.

Judge O’Connor, who is overseeing the criminal matter, will now decide whether to accept the plea agreement and Boeing’s guilty plea.

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Families from around the world intend to travel to an anticipated court hearing to argue against the deal.

Paul Cassell, attorney for the families and professor at the University of Utah, called it a “sweetheart deal” that fails to recognise the 346 deaths caused by Boeing’s conspiracy.

“A judge can reject a plea deal that is not in the public interest, and this deceptive and unfair deal is clearly not in the public interest,” Cassell said.

“We plan to ask Judge O’Connor to use his recognised authority to reject this inappropriate plea and simply set the matter for a public trial, so that all the facts surrounding the case will be aired in a fair and open forum before a jury.”

Robert A. Clifford, Lead Counsel for the families in the civil litigation, expressed disappointment that the Justice Department failed to account for the two crashes.

“Much more evidence has been presented over the last five years that demonstrates that the culture of Boeing putting profits over safety hasn’t changed,” Clifford said.

“This plea agreement only furthers that skewed corporate objective. The families will continue to fight for justice and safety for the flying public in the names of their deceased loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

The Justice Department initially informed the families it would not seek prosecution against Boeing during a video conference last Sunday.

Some families and lawyers referred to the Justice Department’s previous Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with Boeing, which was discarded in May after Boeing failed to comply with its terms following a door plug incident on an Alaska Airlines jet in January.

Javier de Luis, who lost his sister Graziella in the second crash, criticised the new deal, saying it ignores Judge O’Connor’s finding that Boeing’s fraud directly caused 346 deaths.

“When the next crash happens, every DoJ official that signed off on this deal will be as responsible as the Boeing executives that refuse to put safety ahead of profits,” de Luis said.

Zipporah Kuria, who lost her father Joseph, called the deal an “atrocious abomination” and vowed to continue fighting for justice.

Chris Moore, who lost his daughter Danielle, said the Justice Department should have conducted a full investigation and criminal trial against Boeing staff involved in the fraudulent certification of the 737 MAX.

The terms of the deal mean no individual Boeing executives will be charged with a crime, despite families and their attorneys providing evidence of culpability among high-level executives.

Boeing will pay a fine of $487 million, with a $234 million credit for monies previously paid. This is significantly less than the potential $24.7 billion fine Boeing could have faced.

The plea agreement also includes an independent corporate monitor for three years at Boeing facilities, to be selected by the government.

Families have asked to be involved in the selection process, with Judge O’Connor having the final say in choosing the monitor.

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