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In Boeing 737 MAX crash case, judge says he lacks authority to reopen plea deal

A Texas federal judge denied the legal bid from the families of the victims of the two Boeing 737 Max crashes, stating he lacked proper authority to review or modify the agreement made and overturn the immunity granted to Boeing with the deal. Boeing was ordered to appear in court for arraignment on Jan. 26, 2023 to a charge that said the company had misled the regulators that approved the 737 Max. According to AP News, the family members of some of the 346 passengers that died in the two crashes wanted the judge to throw out the settlement and called for the criminal prosecution of Boeing officials.RELATED STORY:Judge orders Boeing to arraignment on 737 MAX federal charges The families felt that the government had violated their rights by settling with Boeing before notifying them. They wanted U.S. District Judge Reed C. O'Connor to rescind the immunity given as part of the settlement and arraign Boeing on federal charges. The Dallas Morning News said O'Connor had declined to revisit the agreement, stating he lacked proper authority to order the review and requested changes. O'Connor wrote in his decision that the court has sympathy for the victims and the loved ones of those who died. "Had Congress vested this court with sweeping authority to ensure that justice is done in a case like this one, it would not hesitate," O'Connor said in his decision, according to Dallas News. O'Connor said he was not insensitive to the plea, but he had no legal authority to overturn the settlement made two years ago. Boeing had complied with the agreement fully and according to Reuters had argued against reopening the plea deal. A deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) was reached in January 2021 with the Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas to resolve any criminal charges filed. In the court docket, Boeing had admitted that two of the 737 MAX Flight Technical Pilots had deceived the FAA Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG) about the speed range that the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) operated. The MCAS system had been found to likely be a root cause for both of the crashes. An indictment was filed for Boeing's 737 MAX Technical Pilot and he was charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. The aircraft parts charge was dismissed in court on Feb. 8, 2022 and on March 23, 2022 he was acquitted of all charges. The current DPA is in effect for three years and Boeing had agreed to not make any public statement that contradicted the acceptance of responsibility and admission of the facts in the DPA's Statement of Facts.Boeing 737 MAX Boeing had pleaded not guilty in court at the arraignment in January. Since the two crashes, Boeing has faced numerous civil lawsuits and congressional investigations, according to AP News. With the DPA, Boeing was ordered to pay over $2.5 billion, which included a monetary penalty of $243.6 million, compensation for the Boeing 737 MAX customers totaling $1.77 billion, and a $500 million fund for the heirs, relatives and legal beneficiaries of the 346 individuals who died in the Lion Air Flight 610 on Oct. 29, 2018, and the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019.RELATED STORIES:House Report Faults Boeing and FAA Failures for Deadly 737 MAX CrashesFAA Administrator Dickson Testifies Before Senate on Boeing 737 MAX Boeing has already complied with the DPA for two years and paid numerous fines, as well as made the necessary safety and training changes needed to prevent another tragedy. Boeing still has immunity from charges and only a decision from a higher authority can overturn that.
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