Boeing offered 737 MAX plea deal, lawyer of crash victims’ families says

A representative for the relatives of the victims expressed indignation on Sunday, saying that the US Justice Department is proposing Boeing a plea deal that will allow it to avoid going to trial in connection with two fatal 737 MAX crashes.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) gave the families a two-hour presentation on Sunday that included details of the agreement, which calls for Boeing to pay a fine and subject to an outside supervisor, according to Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah who is representing the families.

He stated that in the event that Boeing approves the arrangement and it is brought before a judge, the families “will strenuously object” to it.

In response to an AFP inquiry, Boeing would not respond.

The New York Times reported over a week ago that prosecutors were eying such an alternative settlement, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, or DPA, but the DOJ said it had not yet made a decision.

In May, the DOJ concluded that Boeing could be prosecuted for violating a previous DPA reached following the two fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019, which claimed 346 lives.

Under that three-year deal, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle fraud charges related to the certification of the 737 MAX.

But the aviation giant came under renewed scrutiny early this year after a 737 MAX operated by Alaska Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing after a fuselage panel blew out mid-flight.

The January 5 incident brought Boeing’s manufacturing processes back into the spotlight, prompting regulator scrutiny and congressional investigations.

Meanwhile, the victims’ families have repeatedly urged federal prosecutors to bring Boeing to court versus reaching another settlement.

Prosecutors were under pressure not to inflict more harm on Boeing, though, as the business is regarded as essential to both national security and the US aviation sector.

According to Cassell, during the main US prosecutor’s presentation on Sunday, “he repeatedly stated that the DOJ couldn’t prove charges by a reasonable doubt, but he admitted there is ‘a strong interest’ by the families to go to trial.”

“Families argued over and over for a trial and to allow a jury to make that decision,” he said.

Although Boeing disagreed with the DOJ’s findings in the middle of June, it has acknowledged the seriousness of the safety issue.

At a recent congressional hearing, CEO Dave Calhoun, who has decided to retire later this year, stated that the business is “taking action and making progress.”

Whether the new DPA is approved or not will ultimately be determined by the federal judge in Texas who is presiding over the case.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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