Boeing bosses unlikely to be charged over crashes, source says


New York — Boeing executives were unlikely to be criminally charged over fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people as the statute of limitations has likely passed, US justice department officials told victims’ family members in a meeting.

Details were corroborated by a person familiar with the gathering on Friday and correspondence reviewed by Reuters.

The deadline for prosecuting most federal crimes is five years. The justice department found in mid-May that Boeing violated a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement that had shielded the company from a criminal charge arising from the fatal crashes.

Officials agreed to ask a judge to dismiss the charge of conspiring to defraud the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as long as Boeing abided by the terms of the agreement over a three-year period ending Jan. 7, 2024.

But an in-flight blowout two days before the agreement expired exposed ongoing safety and quality issues. A panel blew off a new Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet during a January 5 Alaska Airlines flight. Boeing has until June 13 to outline any disagreements with the department’s finding that it violated the 2021 agreement.

The justice department has until July 7 to inform a federal judge in Texas of its plans. Boeing has said it believes it has “honoured the terms of the agreement” and looks forward to responding to the justice department.

The justice department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The department is weighing several options, including whether to prosecute Boeing or extend the deferred prosecution agreement by a year.

Officials could also enter into a new agreement or reach a non-prosecution agreement that does not involve court supervision. Officials could also seek to negotiate a plea deal with Boeing over the 2021 fraud charge or take the company to trial over it.

Boeing could also face charges over its behaviour during the three-year term of the deferred prosecution agreement, though officials have not found evidence of any felonies committed during that period, prosecutors told the victims’ families, according to the source familiar with the meeting.

Victims’ family members are discussing asking officials to seek an enhanced sentence should Boeing be prosecuted and convicted, the source said. In the meeting, justice department officials said they believed they were unable to prove cases of federal manslaughter or fraud involving aircraft parts beyond a reasonable doubt, the person added.

Reuters





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