Families of people killed in two Boeing 737 Max crashes lost their bid to reopen or reject a controversial agreement the aircraft manufacturer struck with federal prosecutors in 2021.
A federal judge in Texas late Thursday declined to revisit
“The court has no occasion to address whether the DPA is in fact grossly incommensurate with Boeing’s egregious criminal conduct,” US District Judge
The families had said
“The families are disappointed with Judge O’Connor’s ruling, and we plan to appeal to the Fifth Circuit,” said Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who is representing the families. “We are optimistic our appeal will vindicate the families’ rights in this case and ensure that never again are deals like this one reached secretly and without victim involvement.”
Design flaws in the 737 Max were blamed for crashes of a Lion Air flight in 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines plane in 2019, which killed a combined 346 people. Some of their relatives have been working to unwind Boeing’s agreement with the US Department of Justice, arguing it was flawed because they were never consulted on terms.
O’Connor said he wasn’t insensitive to the families’ plea.
“This court has immense sympathy for the victims and loved ones of those who died in the tragic plane crashes resulting from Boeing’s criminal conspiracy,” the judge wrote. “Had Congress vested this court with sweeping authority to ensure that justice is done in a case like this one, it would not hesitate.”
Boeing and the DOJ have resisted efforts to revisit the deal, arguing the company has been in compliance for the first two years of the three-year agreement.
O’Connor said he didn’t believe the government acted in bad faith, and that excluding the families from those conversations was nothing more than a “legal error.”
In fact, the judge contends the government facilitated “historic engagement with the families (that) undercuts arguments that it dealt with them in bad faith.”
He pointed to listening sessions and personal meetings offered by the government prior to the deal and highlighted recent developments in the families’ legal fight that resulted in further opportunities for them to meet and confer with prosecutors.
“Though these measures do not alter the fat that the families were originally denied their legal status and associated rights as crime victims’ representatives, they evince the Government’s good faith — not the opposite,” O’Connor wrote.
The case is US v. Boeing, 21-cr-5, US District Court, Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth).
(Updates with comment from family attorney, background on case.)
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