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US wants Boeing to plead guilty to fraud over fatal crashes, lawyers say

Boeing Justice Department
Posted at 5:25 PM, Jun 30, 2024

(AP) — 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 jetliners, according to two people who heard federal prosecutors detail the offer Sunday.

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

The Justice Department told 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 lawyers representing families who are suing Boeing, and another person who heard the call with prosecutors.

During the meeting, family members expressed anger that prosecutors wanted to offer Boeing a chance to plead guilty to a 3-year-old charge instead of pursuing additional charges and a trial. One said the prosecutors were gaslighting the families; another shouted at them for several minutes when given a chance to speak.

“We are upset. They should just prosecute,” said Massachusetts resident Nadia Milleron, whose 24-year-old daughter, Samya Stumo, died in the second of two 737 Max crashes. “They are saying we can argue to the judge.”

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

Boeing declined to comment.

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

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