By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, (Stocksak), The U.S. Justice Department published updated guidelines for victim assistance and witness assistance following harsh criticisms from the families of victims in two Boeing (NYSE 🙂 737 MAX accidents.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled Friday that victims of two Boeing 737 MAX accidents are legal “crime victims.” After the determination, he will have to decide on the remedy.
The Justice Department stated that the revised guidelines provide details on “when and how department employees work together with victims and witnesses to crime to ensure their voices are heard, and that they are protected during criminal proceedings.”
In December, relatives of victims claimed that the department had violated their rights when it reached the January 2021 deal with Boeing over the two crashes that occurred within five months and killed 346 people.
The families claimed that the U.S. government “lied to and violated their rights through an obscure process”. They asked a judge for a rescinding of Boeing’s immunity from criminal prosecution as part of the $2.5 Billion agreement and to arraign Boeing on the felony charges.
The revised guidelines greatly expand support for those who have been significantly harmed by criminal activity, but they may not fit the statutory definition. They also require consultation and notification earlier and state that “prosecutors should notify victims of plea agreements, non-prosecution arrangements, and deferred prosecution agreements as appropriate before a charging document can be filed.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that “the revised guidelines will ensure we continue to fulfill all our obligations to victims, witnesses, and others.”
Garland met virtually in January to meet with the families of some Boeing crash victims, but the department stood firm to the 2021 plea deal. The department apologized in February for not meeting with the beneficiaries of the crash victims before entering into the deferred prosecution agreement.
O’Connor ruled that 346 people would have survived the crashes if it weren’t for Boeing’s criminal conspiracy against the Federal Aviation Administration.
Boeing and the Justice Department declined to comment on this ruling.
Paul Cassell (a lawyer for the families) stated that the department “clearly infringed the Crime Victims Rights Act by secretly negociating an agreement that gave Boeing immunity against criminal prosecution.”
The Justice Department agreement ended a 21-month investigation into design and development of 737 MAX after the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018/2019.