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Families of Ethiopia 737 Max crash victims seek revival of criminal charge against Boeing

Boeing Company President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg, right foreground, watches as family members hold up photographs of those killed Oct. 29, 2019.   -  
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Andrew Harnik/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved


Government officials in Washington met with about a dozen family members of people killed when a Boeing 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia in 2019.

The families want the Justice Department to revive a criminal charge against the company.

Boeing reached a settlement in 2021 that let it avoid prosecution on a charge of defrauding regulators who approved the Max.

Boeing has been reaching confidential settlements with the families of passengers who died, but the relatives of those killed in the Ethiopia crash are continuing to press the Justice Department to prosecute the company in federal district court in Texas, where the settlement was filed.

On Wednesday, US department officials told relatives that the agency is still considering the matter.

After the meeting, family members held a press conference where they voiced their disappointment with the Department of Justice.

"Today's meeting with the DOJ, has left me quite disheartened," said Zipporah Kuria, who lost her father Joseph Kuria in the crash. "It's not about justice anymore, It's not about the miscarriage of justice for us anymore. It's about the public safety."

Paul Cassell, a lawyer for the families, vowed to "keep fighting" if the Justice Department moves to dismiss the charges against Boeing this summer. 

"It appears to us that the Justice Department is continuing to give a wealthy, powerful, well connected corporation benefits than any other defendant in the criminal justice system would never get. If the Justice Department moves to dismiss the charges against Boeing this summer, we will fight them at every opportunity."  said Cassell.

It was an emotional meeting, according to Nadia Milleron, whose daughter Samya Stumo died in the 2019 crash.

“People are angry. People are shouting. People are starting to talk over other people,” said Milleron, who watched online from her home in Massachusetts while her husband attended in person. Relatives believe the Justice Department is “overlooking a mountain of evidence against Boeing. It’s mystifying,” she said.

According to Milleron, the head of the fraud section of the Justice Department’s criminal division, Glenn Leon, said his agency could extend its review beyond this summer, seek a trial against Boeing on the charge of defrauding regulators who approved the Max, or ask a judge to dismiss the charge. She said Leon made no commitments.

For Boeing, company executives have been forced to talk more about safety and less about finances since a door plug blew out of a Boeing 737 Max during an Alaska Airlines flight in January, leaving a gaping hole in the plane.

The accident halted the progress that Boeing seemed to be making while recovering from the two deadly crashes of Max jets in 2018 and 2019. 

Those crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.

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