The Justice Department argues that the 346 people killed when their flawed Boeing 737s crashed are not crime victims under federal law, even though federal prosecutors charged the company with conspiring to defraud federal regulators and the company admitted to such a conspiracy. On Friday, after months of opposition from the Justice Department and Boeing, the families of some of those killed aboard Max jets more than three years ago sought to counter the argument in a Texas federal court, the Washington Post reports. Deeming their loved ones “crime victims” under the Crime Victims Rights Act would be a key step in their effort to undo a deferred prosecution agreement between Boeing and the Justice Department that the families say lets the company evade accountability.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor heard testimony and accepted an expert witness report from Christopher Keyes, a former Federal Aviation Administration official who has said foreign regulators and airlines rely heavily on FAA documentation to shape their own safety practices and that Boeing’s actions had deadly results abroad in this case. The Justice Department had argued that it could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Boeing’s fraud conspiracy resulted in “the crashes of two flights in foreign countries, run by foreign airlines, overseen by foreign regulators, and flown by foreign pilots.” The issue before O’Connor was whether those killed on Max jets were “directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of a federal offense,” the definition of crime victim under the act. The law says crime victims have a “reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the government in the case.” Relatives of 18 of those who were killed said that right was violated and that they want Boeing executives to face prosecution.