Boeing was formally arraigned on Thursday in a criminal case surrounding two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max Jet, according to CBS news.
The hearing took place at the U.S. Courthouse in Fort Worth, where the aviation company’s chief safety officer Mike Delaney entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of the company before Judge Reed O’Connor, according to NPR.
Several victims’ families told of how the crashes changed their lives, with some going as far as calling it the “deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history.”
Samya Rose was a passenger on one of the flights in question, an Ethiopian Air 737 Max jet, when it crashed after takeoff in Ethiopia in March 2019. The crash killed all 157 passengers and crew.
Her father, Michael Stumo, was there to testify.
“We want him (the judge) to know how our lives were diminished, how we have gaps, our lives just aren’t the same as they were,” Stumo said.
“She was beautiful, charismatic, intelligent, caring,” Stumo said about his daughter.
The other flight, Lion Air 737 Max, crashed after takeoff in Indonesia in October 2018, killing 346 people.
Two years ago, Boeing reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, according to CBS News.
The company has agreed to pay a $243 million criminal penalty due to that agreement.
Many of the families were outraged at the deal, saying they were not consulted and calling it a “secret, sweetheart deal,” according to NPR.
Under the terms of that deal, over $1.7 billion was to go to the airlines that bought Boeing’s 737 Max jets, with $500 million in additional compensation going to victims’ heirs and relatives, CBS News reported.
As a result of the agreement, Boeing would not be indicted despite the company being charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The company pinned the blame for the crashes on two technical pilots, accusing them of misleading the FAA regarding how the 737 MAX flight controls operated when the company was trying to secure certification of the aircraft, according to NPR.
The Justice Department decided the victim’s families were not designated as crime victims under federal law and could not provide their input into the case.
The victim’s families filed motions in court in December 2021, urging the judge to declare them crime victims.
In April 2022, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) criticized the Justice Department’s decision in a letter to Judge O’Connor.
“If the government did not think these people were victims, it is hard to see why it thought a half-billion dollar compensation fund was appropriate. The Justice Department’s attempt to have it both ways now is simply not credible,” Cruz wrote.
In October, the judge reversed course and ruled that family members were crime victims and would be able to testify.
“We were obviously very happy that he sided in our favor that we were victims,” Stumo said.
Boeing reported a $650 million operating loss in the fourth quarter, surprising Wall Street analysts. Boeing blamed the loss on “abnormal production costs” associated with the 737 MAX Jet as it tried to deliver its remaining backlog on the plane, according to CNN Business.