Judge Orders Charges Brought Against Amtrak Engineer, Reversing Prosecutors' Decision
Two days after prosecutors announced they would not bring criminal charges against an Amtrak engineer involved in a 2015 derailment, a Philadelphia judge has ordered his arrest.
Municipal Court Judge Marsha Neifield on Thursday ordered the arrest of engineer Brandon Bostian on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
Bostian was at the controls of an Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia in 2015, killing eight people and injuring about 200 others. NPR's Colin Dwyer reported for the Two-Way Blog that the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office announced in a statement on Tuesday:
"The evidence indicates that the derailment was caused by the engineer operating the train far in excess of the speed limit. However, we cannot conclude that the evidence rises to the high level necessary to charge the engineer or anyone else with a criminal offense."
Following the announcement, attorneys representing the family of one of those killed in the accident brought a private citizen criminal complaint against Bostian. The Associated Press reports that following the judge's decision:
"The city quickly referred the prosecution to the state attorney general Thursday to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office said it's reviewing the matter. It could appeal the order to the state's Superior Court. ...
"It's rare but not unprecedented for citizens to seek private criminal complaints when they object to a prosecutor's decision. Pennsylvania judges can approve or reject their petitions, but typically give wide latitude to a prosecutor's discretion. It's not clear if any such cases in recent memory in Philadelphia have survived when the prosecutor appealed."
"The National Transportation Safety Board concluded in August 2016 that Bostian likely caused the derailment, which occurred as the engineer accelerated into a curve rather than braking. The New York-bound Amtrak 188 entered the curve going more than double the speed limit, flinging multiple train cars free from the tracks and tearing up some of the railway's I-beams.
"Yet prosecutors say they have 'no evidence that the engineer acted with criminal "intent" or criminal "knowledge," ' and they do not believe there's enough evidence to prove that Bostian acted with 'criminal recklessness.' "
The accident has prompted more than 125 lawsuits. As NPR's Merrit Kennedy reported in October, a federal judge approved a $265 million settlement between Amtrak and people affected by the crash.
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