Boeing Criminal Case Epitomizes Biden Double Standard of Justice

Image of Boeing plane.

Image by Justin Hu.

Nothing better illustrates the double standard of justice under President Biden than the way the Justice Department is handling the criminal case against Boeing.

Earlier this week, Justice Department attorneys were in New Orleans, Louisiana before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing, as were Boeing’s attorneys, that the family members of the 346 victims of the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes were not entitled to relief under the Crime Victims Rights Act.

A federal judge in Ft. Worth, Texas had ruled that the Department violated the law by not allowing the family members to consult with Justice Department prosecutors as they negotiated the deferred prosecution agreement that in effect shut down the criminal prosecution of Boeing in what the judge called “the deadliest corporate crime in our nation’s history.”

But the district court judge, Reed O’Connor, refused to order a remedy.

The family members appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. And earlier this week, Boeing and the Justice Department joined in seeking to keep the criminal case from being reopened.

The families want the Fifth Circuit to redo the settlement agreement and get rid of the immunity provision that allowed Boeing to in effect get away with murder.

But the Justice Department, which is supposed to be prosecuting Boeing for its crime, defended the immunity provision.

“As the district court recognized (and two circuits have held), a deferred prosecution agreement is first and foremost an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, and fundamental separation-of-powers principles prohibit a district court from rewriting its terms,” the Department’s lawyers argued in their brief to the Fifth Circuit. “The Constitution assigns prosecutorial discretion to the Executive, not the courts, and nothing in the CVRA, the Speedy Trial Act, or anything else empowers a district court to usurp that quintessentially executive function by second-guessing the terms on which the government has agreed not to prosecute.”

“Even if a court had that authority, moreover, it would be inappropriate to remedy the government’s CVRA violation by depriving Boeing of the benefit of its bargain after years of performance,” the Department argued.

From their questioning, some of the Fifth Circuit Court judges seemed to be inclined to grant some remedy for the victims. But their remedy was more along the lines of denying Boeing’s motion to dismiss the charges at the end of the deferred prosecution agreement instead of zeroing out the immunity provision now and forcing the Justice Department to start over with its criminal prosecution.

“I think there’s lots of conferral rights, lots of procedural rights,” Boeing’s attorney Paul Clement told the circuit court in oral arguments. “But what’s wrong with this petition for review and what would be wrong with the relief you’re envisioning is that it’s a degree of substantive interference with prosecutorial discretion that is not contemplated.”

“We went to the Justice Department and said we want to talk to you about prosecuting the company that killed 346 people,” Paul Cassell, the families’ attorney, told the circuit court. “And we were told specifically –  can’t do that. We’ve signed an agreement, our hands are tied.”

“We want you to untie the hands of those prosecutors so that they can consider holding Boeing accountable,” Cassell told the panel.

So that’s how the Biden Justice Department handles corporate crime. And specifically “the deadliest corporate crime in our nation’s history,” as Judge O’Connor put it.

No criminal prosecution in a case of mass manslaughter and the Department side’s with Boeing in denying the victims their rights in court.

And it’s not just Boeing of course that gets treated with kid gloves.

A recent report in the Capitol Hill Citizen found that prosecution of corporate crime cases is at a new low under Biden – lower than under Trump.

The report, on the front page of the July/August edition of the Citizen, found that major corporate crime cases settled with deferred prosecution agreements, non prosecution agreements and declinations with disgorgement were down from 56 under President Trump to 31 under President Biden.

Major corporate crime cases that resulted in guilty pleas or verdicts were down from 33 under Trump to 24 under Biden.

Just by contrast, how does the Biden Justice Department handle individuals who run up against the corporate powers that Biden defends?

In April of this year, the Justice Department brought criminal charges against four U.S. citizens, members of the African People’s Socialist Movement, for “spreading pro-Russia propaganda.”

Charged in the indictment were four U.S. citizens, the founder of the Party, Omali Yeshitela, along with Penny Joanne Hess, Jesse Nevel, and Augustus C. Romain Jr., aka Gazi Kodzo – and three Russian nationals.

In a motion to dismiss filed in federal court in Tampa, Florida earlier this month, Leonard Goodman and Angela Reaney, attorneys for Penny Hess, explained that the Justice Department is not alleging that the defendants writings and political speeches created a grave and immediate danger that might justify their arrest and prosecution.

“Instead, the indictment is based upon a premise that protected speech can be criminalized if the speaker has a relationship to Russia,” they write. “This premise is false and must be rejected.”

And what was the relationship to Russia?

Yeshitela, the founder and chairman of the party, made two trips to Moscow in 2015 to attend conferences arranged by one of the Russian defendants and a group called the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR).

“Contrary to the allegations in the indictment, APSP did not conceal the Party’s associations with Russia and Russians,” Goodman and Reaney write. “Rather, the APSP described its trips to Moscow in the Burning Spear, the same way it described its other trips.”

And party members have traveled all over the world – to Nigeria, to Northern Ireland, to South Africa, to London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Stockholm and to the Oxford Union to participate in a debate on African Unity.

In addition, their advocacy against U.S. and NATO support for the war in Ukraine goes back way before Yeshitela’s trip to Moscow.

“It must be noted that the APSP defendants have a well-documented history of opposing U.S. efforts to interfere in other countries that predates Yeshitela’s visit to Moscow by at least four decades,” Goodman and Reaney wrote. “The suggestion in the indictment that the APSP defendants were speaking for Russia when they blamed the United States for provoking Russia into invading Ukraine is plainly untrue, on its face.”

“Even a quick perusal of the archives of the APSP newspaper, The Burning Spear, and their published speeches, shows example after example of the APSP’s opposition to NATO expansion and U.S. interference in Ukraine.”

Yes, the Justice Department is seeking jail time for U.S. citizens for a number of “overt acts,” including that the U.S. citizens made “speeches expressing opposition to the U.S. involvement in the crisis in Ukraine and in solidarity with the people of Russia and their elected government and leadership.”

“The views of these defendants, that the government calls ‘propaganda and disinformation,’ are nearly identical to the views held by well-renowned public intellectuals such as Professors Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago,” Goodman and Reaney write.

The FBI raided Yeshitela’s offices and home in July 2022. In August 2022, Yeshitela went on the public affairs program Democracy Now and accused the FBI of targeting his group for their political work.

“My wife and I were awake,” Yeshitela said. “We were sitting at the dining room table discussing how we were going to be moving for the day. She is responsible for and has organized a doula program to train African women, young women, in becoming doulas. This is in a city where in the first year of life, enough Black babies die to fill 15 kindergarten classes every year. So, we were talking about that. And I actually was preparing to go to the gym.”

“And then we heard this loud racket outside, this noise from loudspeakers demanding that the residents of this property should come out with our hands up and nothing in our hands. And as this was being said, loud flashbang grenades were exploding all around the house and, I was later to learn, in the back stairwell of the house. So, I asked her to allow me to leave first, and to get on the phone to call people to let them know that we were being raided. And she tried but was unable to do it because they had jammed our phones.”

“So, I went down the stairwell, and when I got to the bottom of the stairwell, these laser dots from automatic weapons were bouncing off my chest. And I heard these commands to move toward them, toward the light. There was a large armored vehicle in front of my house. There were camouflage-clad troopers, FBI agents, and I don’t know who else, with flak jackets and automatic weapons.”

“My wife followed me down. And on her way down, a drone went past her head going up the stairwell into the house. So, I went outside and was zip-tied at the side of the house. There were – I don’t know how many FBI agents there were, but there were a lot of them and a lot of different vehicles. And my wife came downstairs. She was handcuffed behind her back.”

“And I’m asking them, ‘Why? What’s going on?’ They said that they had a search warrant for my house. And I asked them to see the search warrant. And they conveniently didn’t have it on them, but it was somewhere in the vicinity, and they’d get it. We were told to sit on the curb, which we didn’t comply with. And they said, ‘Well, you can sit in the backseat of the car.’ And we were saying, ‘I don’t want to sit anywhere. I want to leave. I don’t even want you here. I don’t want to be here with you.’ I said again, ‘Why are you here? Why are you attacking this house?’ They took my cell phone. They said that they were there because later that morning there was going to be an indictment out of Tampa, Florida, against a Russian national, and should he ever come to the United States, he would be arrested, that somehow my name was involved in this indictment. And so, that was the basis they gave for the arrest.”

That’s how the FBI and Department of Justice treat individual U.S. citizens who speak out against the military industrial complex.

But large powerful corporations that kill?

And their CEOs who kill?

Boeing, its current CEO David Calhoun and its former CEO Dennis Muilenburg, should be criminally prosecuted for the killing of 346 people.

“It’s a principle of American law that the crime of involuntary manslaughter occurs when death results from acts performed in a criminally negligent or reckless manner,” write Shanin Specter and Robert Clifford in an article published last year titled – It’s Time for a Criminal Investigation of Boeing’s CEOs.

“The public communications that Boeing made at Muilenburg’s and Calhoun’s insistence have now been recognized as false and misleading by both the relevant court and relevant regulator,” they wrote. “These were statements that the U.S. government and the general public trusted regarding the 737 MAX 8’s safety. Muilenburg and Calhoun were also pivotal in Boeing’s decision to allow the unsafe 737 MAX 8 to keep flying after the first crash in 2018. This led directly to the second, fatal crash in Ethiopia.”

“Such irresponsible conduct – if proven in criminal court – needs to be punished, both for the memories of the deceased and for the safety of the general public. It’s time for the criminal justice system to look at the behavior of both Muilenburg and Calhoun.”

Time’s up.

Prosecute Boeing and its CEOs for manslaughter.

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