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Boeing receives a plea deal proposal to avoid trial over the 737 crash

The families of victims in the Boeing 737 MAX crashes expressed deep dismay on Sunday as news emerged that the US Justice Department is offering Boeing a plea deal to avoid a trial. According to Paul Cassell, a law professor representing the families, the DOJ's proposal involves Boeing paying a fine and agreeing to oversight by an external supervisor.

During a two-hour session, families were briefed on the specifics of the deal by DOJ officials. Cassell noted that the families vehemently oppose the agreement and are prepared to challenge it should Boeing accept and the case proceed to a judge.

Boeing declined to comment when contacted by AFP. Earlier reports had hinted at a potential deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), though the DOJ clarified that no final decision had been made. The DOJ had previously determined in May that Boeing could face prosecution for breaching an earlier DPA related to the fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019, which claimed 346 lives.

The scrutiny intensified earlier this year following an emergency landing of a 737 MAX operated by Alaska Airlines, prompting renewed concerns over Boeing's manufacturing standards and triggering regulatory and congressional investigations.

Despite families' persistent calls for a trial, prosecutors faced pressure to safeguard Boeing's standing, considered crucial to the US aviation sector and national security. During the DOJ presentation, the lead prosecutor acknowledged the families' strong desire for a trial but cited challenges in meeting the burden of proof.

Boeing has refuted the DOJ's findings but acknowledged the seriousness of the safety issues. CEO Dave Calhoun, who plans to step down later this year, testified before Congress about the company's efforts to address these concerns.

The fate of the new DPA now rests with a federal judge in Texas overseeing the case.


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