Families Of Boeing 737 Victims Ask DOJ To Levy $24.8 Billion Fine

Families of the passengers who were killed in two Boeing plane crashes have asked the Department of Justice to fine the aerospace company $24.8 billion and prosecute “responsible corporate officials,” saying that “Boeing’s crime is the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history.”

The sum represents the maximum that could be levied in a criminal trial. The Justice Department has been mulling criminal charges against the company over its shoddy safety record.

The families made their request Wednesday in a 32-page letter that was sent by attorney Paul Cassell and obtained by HuffPost.

“The families continue to believe the appropriate action now is an aggressive criminal prosecution of The Boeing Company,” the letter read.

All 157 people on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Kenya were killed when the pilot lost control of the aircraft in March 2019; less than five months earlier, a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea around Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board. Both of the planes involved were Boeing 737 Max 8s.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an order grounding the 737 Max in 2019, permitting them to fly after almost two years of review. Another grounding was ordered earlier this year after a panel blew off the side of an Alaska Airlines flight over Oregon. Suction created by the gaping hole in the plane was strong enough to pull passengers’ personal items outside.

Boeing’s current CEO, David Calhoun, was made to testify before a Senate subcommittee about the company’s safety lapses on Tuesday. He apologized to the families “for the grief that we have caused,” but defended the company and said he was “proud of our safety record.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said at the hearing that “more than a dozen whistleblowers” have contacted the subcommittee with information about the company’s safety practices.

The crash victims’ families suggested that the previous CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, who was fired in 2020, be among those prosecuted for alleged criminal negligence.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun testifies before a subcommittee of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee on the company's safety culture, following a number of recent incidents on Boeing airplanes, in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Families of the victims of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, a Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed in 2019, attended the hearing and spoke to reporters earlier in the day.

Their letter also admonished the Justice Department for failing to be more forthcoming about actions it might take, and for referring to the families not as “crime victims” but as “crash victims.”

In a May 31 meeting — which The Washington Post described as “tense and emotional” — family members met with Justice Department officials to discuss the case and try to convince the officials to prosecute Boeing.

They are requesting a scheduling conference on July 7, with a trial scheduled within 70 days of that date to comply with the law.

“DOJ should not offer any concessions in plea bargaining,” their letter read.

“One last overarching point: any resolution of the case that fails to reflect that Boeing killed 346 people dishonors the crime victims’ memory — and the families will vehemently and appropriately object to any resolution that does not acknowledge Boeing’s responsibility for criminally killing their loved ones,” it stated.