Justice Department to meet with Boeing crash families April 24, relatives say

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department plans to meet with the families of the of the victims of two Boeing 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people as the government decides whether to move ahead with a criminal case, relatives of the victims said.

Boeing won immunity from criminal prosecution as part of the $2.5 billion Justice Department agreement struck in January 2021 over a 737 MAX fraud conspiracy charge related to the plane’s flawed design. Boeing had to abide by the terms of the agreement for a three-year period that ended on Jan. 7.

Boeing declined comment.

The Justice Department is deciding whether the Jan. 5, 2024 Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 mid-air emergency and Boeing’s conduct breaches the agreement, which could allow the Justice Department to move forward with a criminal case against the company.

The Justice Department has until July 7 to make a decision.

The department is holding a meeting with relatives on April 24, said Michael Stumo, whose daughter was killed in the March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 crash. “They were bludgeoned into recognizing us as victims,” Stumo said, who was invited and plans to attend the meeting.

The Seattle Times reported the planned meeting earlier.

The Justice Department, which declined to comment on the meeting, in 2022 updated its guidelines for notifying victims of potential crimes after relatives of those killed in Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashes in 2018 and 2019.

The relatives said their legal rights had been violated after the government had failed to meet with crash victims’ relatives before the department struck the Boeing plea deal.

Attorney General Merrick Garland met with family members in January 2022 and the department apologized after the depatment’s own victims’ rights ombudsman in 2020 “conveyed inaccurate information” to representatives of the families.

The Justice Department said in 2021 “misleading statements, half-truths, and omissions communicated by Boeing employees to the FAA impeded the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the flying public.”

Last month, the FBI told passengers on the Alaska MAX 9 that they may be victims of a crime, according to letters seen by Reuters.

The letters said the FBI has identified the passengers “as a possible victim of a crime” and that the agency is currently investigating the case but would not disclose more information on its ongoing probe.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)


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