Boeing Pleads Not Guilty to Felony Fraud Charges Over 737 MAX Crashes

A federal judge in Fort Worth previously ruled that relatives of people killed in the crashes of two Boeing 737 MAX planes are crime victims under federal law and should have been told about private negotiations over a settlement that spared Boeing from criminal prosecution

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Boeing pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a 737 MAX felony fraud conspiracy charge after families objected to a 2021 Justice Department settlement that spared Boeing from criminal prosecution related to the crashes.

Thursday, some of the families of the 346 people killed in two plane crashes involving Boeing 737 MAX jets in 2018 and 2019 were given a chance to talk about the impact of that tragedy in a federal courtroom in Fort Worth.

Thursday, some of the families of the 346 people killed in two plane crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets will get their chance to talk about the impact of that tragedy in a federal courtroom in Fort Worth.

Boeing declined to comment Wednesday, but issued a statement Thursday after the hearing saying they were deeply sorry to those who'd lost loved ones and that they will never forget the lives lost, adding, "their memory drives us every day to uphold our responsibility to all who depend on the safety of our products."

Boeing previously attained immunity from criminal prosecution in both cases as part of a plea deal with the Justice Department. But Thursday, in a Fort Worth federal court, the families of victims from around the world argued that the "agreement clearly violated their rights as victims," as Boeing is arraigned on a felony criminal charge. Families also want more monitoring and an additional review of the safety measures Boeing has reportedly taken.

It's a nearly unprecedented situation, according to former federal prosecutor Matthew Yarbrough, who's not associated with the case.

"That's a rarity. You don't see that very often. Typically, when we think of criminal indictments, they're about individuals who are sentenced and go to jail.” said Yarbrough.

Back in November, Boeing said that it opposed any effort to reopen the agreement, calling it "unprecedented, unworkable, and inequitable." It also noted it has been complying with the agreement for nearly two years.

The company's CEO, Dave Calhoun, spoke with CNBC on Wednesday.

"My reaction to the families is always the same. Just nothing but heartbreak. I think we all can imagine how tough and difficult that would be. Any and every hearing they want to express those views is ok with me,” said Calhoun. “And it's a good reminder to our whole Boeing franchise, our company, our industry, how important safety is for all of us and to continue to get ahead of it. And that's how we think about it. With respect to the legal proceeding itself that's not a subject I'm qualified to talk about."


A Boeing spokesperson shared the following statement Thursday afternoon regarding the arraignment hearing:

"We are deeply sorry to all who lost loved ones on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Flight 302, and greatly respect those who expressed their views at the hearing today.  We will never forget the lives lost in these accidents and their memory drives us every day to uphold our responsibility to all who depend on the safety of our products. We have made broad and deep changes across our company, and made changes to the design of the 737 MAX to ensure that accidents like these never happen again.  We also are committed to continuing to comply scrupulously with all of our obligations under the agreement we entered into with the Justice Department two years ago."


Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 was carrying 149 passengers and eight crew members on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 when it left Ethiopia's capital city at 8:38 a.m. local time, headed for Nairobi. About six minutes later, it crashed in a field near Bishoftu.

Michael Stumo's 24-year-old daughter Samya Stumo was on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

Stumo said Samya taught herself to read at age 3. By 7, she was raising pigs on the family’s farm. At 9, she was driving a tractor. And at 14, Stumo’s only daughter enrolled in college.

Eventually, Samya went on to the University of Copenhagen School of Global Health before returning home to the U.S.

"She was charismatic. She was beautiful. She was very family oriented, very intelligent,” said Stumo.

In March 2019, she headed to eastern Africa to establish nonprofit medical clinics.

"She sent us a text that she just got to Addis Ababa and was waiting for the plane to go to Nairobi. ‘Talk to you soon.’ And that's the last we heard from her,” said Stumo.

Zipporah Kuria traveled from London to attend Thursday's hearing. She was 23 when her father was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash.

"To know the world has so many incredible people in such a violent and needless way. It keeps me awake at night. It makes me wonder how these corporate lawyers and corporation leaders go to bed at night," Kuria said. "It’s difficult to try and take a step forward because you’re always brought back to the 10th of March. It’s been three years but for everyone standing here, for all of these people, we are still stood at March 10. We are still stuck on that day and the injustice that keeps unveiling. This wound that we had no idea of the depth that we carried."

Clariss Moore lost her daughter Danielle in the same crash.

"I did not only lose my daughter. I lost my past, my today, my future, my tomorrow, same with tomorrow. This is not only my daughter. This is my dream, my companion. Our companion," Moore said. "When we flew to Ethiopia and took our daughter and saw the site where she died into the bushes, into the ground…that six minutes torment me. Did she cry for me? Did someone hold her hand?"

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