Justice Department to Charge Boeing, Propose Guilty Plea in Fatal Crashes, Lawyers Say

Justice Department to Charge Boeing, Propose Guilty Plea in Fatal Crashes, Lawyers Say

The U.S. Justice Department plans to propose that Boeing plead guilty to fraud in connection with two deadly plane crashes involving its 737 Max planes, according to two people who heard federal prosecutors detail the offer on Sunday.

Boeing will have until the end of next week to accept or reject the offer, which includes requiring the aerospace giant to agree to an independent monitor to oversee its compliance with anti-fraud laws, they said.

The Justice Department informed relatives of some of the 346 people who died in the 2018 and 2019 crashes about the plea offer during a video meeting, according to Mark Lindquist, one of the attorneys representing the families suing Boeing, and another person who listened to the call with prosecutors.

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During the meeting, family members expressed anger that prosecutors wanted to offer Boeing the opportunity to plead guilty to a charge that had been filed three years ago rather than pursue additional charges and a trial. One said prosecutors were manipulating families; another yelled at them for several minutes when given the opportunity to speak.

“We are upset. They should file a lawsuit,” said Massachusetts resident Nadia Milleron, whose 24-year-old daughter, Samya Stumo, died in the second of two 737 Max crashes. “They say we can file a lawsuit with the judge.”

Prosecutors told the families that if Boeing rejects the plea offer, the Justice Department would seek a trial on the matter, they said.

Boeing declined to comment.

The meeting came weeks after prosecutors told a federal judge that the U.S. aerospace giant violated a January 2021 agreement that had protected Boeing from criminal prosecution in connection with crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

According to some legal experts, a conviction could jeopardize Boeing’s status as a federal contractor. The company has major contracts with the Pentagon and NASA.

By DAVID KOENIG, Associated Press