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Families of Boeing crash victims disappointed by plea deal

Nadia Milleron,mother of Samya Rose Stumo, one of the victims of the Boeing 737 Max crash in Ethiopia, on Capitol Hill, June 18, 2024.   -  
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Jose Luis Magana/Copyright 2024 The AP All Rights Reserved


Families of Boeing crash victims continue to call out the company's behaviour after if agreed to a plea deal.

The U.S aerospace giant has apparently made the calculation that admitting to a crime is better than enduring a long public trial.

The deal with U.S. prosecutors only relates to Boeing’s culpability in relation to the 2018 and 2019 crashes.

"If it wasn't Boeing, if it was a human being that had committed a fraud that had led to the deaths of 346 people, would we be having this discussion? No, of course not. There's no way that a deal like this would be given to an individual but because it's Boeing; apparently rules don't apply," Javier de Luis, the brother of late Graziella de Luis concludes.

What did Boeing agree to do?

Boeing will pay another fine, bringing the total to $487.2 million, which the Justice Department says is the legal maximum for the fraud charge. The deal also requires the company to invest at least $455 million to improve safety. It will be on court-supervised probation for three years, and the Justice Department will name an independent monitor to oversee Boeing's compliance with terms of the plea agreement.

Boeing's board of directors will be required to meet with families of the victims.

Now it’s up to a federal judge whether to accept the plea and a sentence that is part of a deal which includes a 243 million$ fine.

Boeing paid a fine for the same crime in 2021 which makes Nadia Milleron, the mother of late Samya Stumo say teh company didn't change.

"Boeing has still never changed their behavior. The basic situation which caused our daughters death is the same. There are still avionic, hydraulic and electrical problems with these planes that are happening because of defective production."

Can the judge block the deal?

Yes. There will be a hearing before U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas. He can accept the agreement, in which case he can't change terms of Boeing's punishment. Or he can reject it, which would likely lead to new negotiations between Boeing and prosecutors. A date for the hearing has not been set.

Deals in which the defendant and the federal government agree on a sentence are controversial in legal circles.

“Judges don't like them. They feel that it usurps their authority,” said Deborah Curtis, a former Justice Department lawyer.

O'Connor, however, has shown deference before to the Justice Department's power. When families of the crash victims tried to undo the 2021 deferred-prosecution agreement, the judge criticized what he called “Boeing’s egregious criminal conduct” but ruled that he had no authority to overturn the settlement.

Is Boeing under investigation for other incidents?

The company still faces investigations into the blowout of a panel from an Alaska Airlines Max in January, increased oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration, and accusations from current and former employees about poor workmanship and retaliation against whistleblowers.

The FBI told passengers on the Alaska Airline Max that suffered a panel blowout while flying over Oregon that they might be victims of a crime.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating that incident, and the Federal Aviation Administration is looking into Boeing’s manufacturing quality.

Will Boeing lose government contracts?

Probably not.

Government contractors can be suspended or disbarred for criminal convictions, but agencies generally have leeway to grant exceptions.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said the Justice Department notified the Defense Department about Boeing's plea deal.

The Defense Department “will assess the company’s remediation plans and agreement with the Department of Justice to make a determination as to what steps are necessary and appropriate to protect the federal government,” Ryder said.

In 2006, the Air Force cited “compelling national interest” to let Boeing keep competing for contracts even after the company admitted charges that included using stolen information to win a space-launch contract and paying a $615 million fine.

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