Boeing Gets Plea Deal Offer To Avoid 737 Crash Trial

Boeing came under renewed scrutiny after a 737 MAX was forced to make an emergency landing (file).

Washington:

The US Justice Department is offering Boeing a plea deal that will allow it to avoid a trial related to two deadly 737 MAX crashes, a lawyer for the victims’ families said Sunday, expressing outrage.

Details of the deal, which requires Boeing to pay a fine and submit to an outside supervisor, were given to the families in a two-hour presentation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Sunday, said Paul Cassell, a University of Utah law professor who represents the families.

He said the families “will strenuously object” to the agreement if Boeing ultimately accepts and it is presented to a judge.

Contacted by AFP, Boeing declined to comment.

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.

But prosecutors also faced pressure not to further damage Boeing, a company seen as critical to the US aviation industry as well as national security.

In his presentation on Sunday, the lead US prosecutor “admitted there is ‘a strong interest’ by the families to go to trial, but he repeatedly said that the DOJ couldn’t prove charges by a reasonable doubt,” Cassell said.

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

Boeing contested the DOJ’s conclusions in mid-June but has recognized the gravity of the safety crisis.

CEO Dave Calhoun, who has agreed to step down later in the year, told a recent congressional hearing that the company is “taking action and making progress.”

Ultimately, it will be up to the federal judge in Texas who is overseeing the case to decide if the new DPA goes through.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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