After a United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas judge ordered Boeing to be arraigned, the manufacturer pleaded not guilty to conspiracy fraud charges relating to the two crashes of the 737 MAX.
The US District Judge Reed O’Connor ordered the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to appear before the district’s court in the fall of 2022, despite Boeing and the Department of Justice (DoJ) having agreed to a settlement in January 2021. At that time, the DoJ granted Boeing immunity from further prosecution and the company resolved to pay up to $2.5 billion in compensation and fines to airlines and victims’ families.
However, O’Connor ruled that the settlement violated a victims’ rights law that prohibits the DoJ, or any other government entity, to conclude “any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement” without informing the victims.
Prior to the court hearing on January 26, 2023, the victims’ families filed a brief that stated that Boeing ‘committed the deadliest corporate crime in US history,’ and requested an independent monitor ‘to ensure the safety of the community’.
Mike Delaney, the Chief Aerospace Safety Officer of Boeing, appeared in the Northern District of Texas court pleading not guilty to fraud conspiracy charges. O’Connor ruled that the OEM must not commit any further crimes and denied the victims’ families’ request to install an independent monitor to oversee the company’s safety and ethics culture.
The two crashes, in Indonesia and Ethiopia, claimed the lives of 346 people, resulting in the type being grounded in March 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ungrounded the 737 MAX in late 2020, becoming the first authority to do so.
China is the latest county where the aircraft has returned to service, with China Southern Airlines operating the first commercial flight with the 737 MAX in almost four years on January 13, 2023.